‘This most hospitable Island’: early British contact with Ryūkyū
From the early 17th century, the Ryūkyū Kingdom had become a locus, not only of trade with China, but also an opening to the world outside for the Satsuma fief in Kyūshū. From the early 19th century, European ships tried to gain entry to Japan through the Ryūkyū Islands. The visit of the HMS Alceste and HM Sloop Lyra in 1816 was an early attempt by the British to re-connect with Japan. So impressed were some Royal Navy officers by the hospitality they received from the Ryūkyūans that they raised money for a Christian mission with unintended results. One of the principal figures in this missionary effort ended his naval career as one of the first inspectors of the Coastguard in Ireland. This paper will deal with the issues raised by this early contact and its consequences.
Barbara Geraghty lectures in Japanese in the School of Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics at the University of Limerick. She is a member of the national steering committee of the Irish Post-Primary Languages Initiative and a former member of the Royal Irish Academy Modern Languages Committee. She publishes in the areas of culture and language learning, computer-assisted language learning and Okinawan literature and is currently researching affect and motivation.