After posting an article called “The Origin of ‘Kiseru’/ Japanese Pipe”, my rakugo club friend asked me how in the world it was possible for Japanese to trade with Laotians during the Edo period.
Japan began trading with Portugal in 1543, which was before the Edo period started, and Portugal had already had a strong foothold in South East Asia. So my initial guess was that it could’ve been through the Portuguese.
I don’t know if my assumption was right, but it was a possibility. Japan also traded with China, so it could’ve been through them as well.
Then, I remembered that the Ayutthaya Japanese Village (アユタヤ日本人町) in the present day Thailand had already existed. In fact, Japanese started migrating to Thailand as early as the mid-14th century!!! So it could’ve been through them 🙂
It is said that 1,000-1,500 Japanese lived in the tiny village (570m x 230m) during its heyday.
Now the leader of this village was a samurai warrior called Yamada Nagamasa (1590-1630). He was a great leader and well trusted by the Ayutthayan authorities, and he eventually became the governor of Nakhon Si Thammarat Province !!!
I learned from a TV documentary that he was given a Thai name and completely treated as a local, so some people didn’t even know he was actually a Japanese!!!