European Community-Japan Relations

  • William R. Nester


Until the mid-nineteenth century, contact between Europe and Japan was sporadic and mutual perceptions were shaped largely by myths. Marco Polo was the first European to hear about the distant archipelago of Japan (Cipangu), and the publication of his Travels popularized the image of a mythical, gold-rich island kingdom in the northwest Pacific. In 1492, Columbus set sail for the Orient, hoping to make contact with China and also to find the rich island of Cipangu. Although Columbus fell about half a world short of his goal, Jesuit missionaries managed to reach Japan in 1542, unleashing a century of feverish Japanese borrowing of Western military technology, fashions, and ideas. As in Europe’s kingdoms, cannon and muskets enabled ambitious lords to smash down thin castle walls and transform Japan from decentralized to centralized feudalism.1


Market Share Trade Agreement Trade Barrier Much Favored Nation European Firm 
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  1. 1.
    For an analysis of the relationship between Japan’s foreign relations and internal power struggles see William Nester, The Foundation of Japanese Power (London: Macmillan, 1990).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    For excellent indepth analysis see Michael Montgomery, Imperial Japan (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Robert Jervis, Perception and Misperception in International Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976).Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    For the most indepth study of this subject, see Endymion Wilkinson, Japan versus Europe: A History of Misunderstanding (London: Penguin, 1983).Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    See Edward Said, Orientalism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Jean Pierre Lehmann, ‘Mutual Images’, in Loukas Tsoukalis and Maureen White (eds), Japan and Western Europe (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982) p. 19.Google Scholar
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    B. H. Chamberlain, Things Japanese (London, 1890) p. 261.Google Scholar
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    Fritz Stern, ‘The Giant from Afar — Visions of Europe from Algiers to Tokyo’, Foreign Affairs, 55 (3), 1977.Google Scholar
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    Ironically, one of the first books warning of a looming Japanese challenge came out of free-trade oriented West Germany: Hakan Hedberg, Die Japanische Herausforderung (Hambury: Hoffman and Campe, 1970).Google Scholar
  11. 43.
    Quoted from Benedict Meynell, ‘Relations with Japan’, in Loukas Tsoukalis and Maureen White (eds), Japan and Western Europe (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982) p. 116.Google Scholar
  12. 47.
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  14. 57.
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  15. 60.
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  16. 71.
    Brian Hindley, ‘EC Imports of VCRs from Japan: A Costly Precedent’, Journal of World Trade Law, 20 (2), March–April 1986, p. 177.Google Scholar
  17. 72.
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  18. 86.
    Quoted in Sylvia Ostry, Governments and Corporations in a Shrinking World: Trade and Innovation Policies in the United States, Europe, and Japan (New York: Council on Foreign Relations Press, 1990), p. 74.Google Scholar
  19. 87.
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Copyright information

© William R. Nester 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • William R. Nester
    • 1
  1. 1.St. John’s University of New YorkUSA

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