Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga dazzled the king of Spain, set up diplomatic links with 17th-century Europe and even met the pope
Hasekura Rokuemon Tsunenaga. Born 1571 of Japanese imperial descent; baptised into the Catholic church as Francisco Felipe Faxicura in Spain, 1615.
Claim to fame
In 1613, seven years before the Mayflower headed to the New World, Hasekura set sail from the small Japanese port of Tsukinoura, crossed the Pacific, travelled overland through Mexico, then sailed all the way to Europe. He was accompanied by about 20 fellow countrymen – in all likelihood, the first Japanese to cross the Atlantic. They visited Seville, were received by the King of Spain, popped briefly to France, and travelled to Rome for an audience with the pope in 1615. The purpose of Hasekura’s embassy seems to have been to establish cultural and trading links with Europe.