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  • Japanese: 平戸 (Hirado)

Hirado is a port city in Nagasaki prefecture, which served as one of the chief centers of Chinese and European commercial activity in Japan in the late 16th to early 17th centuries, and was the location of Hirado castle, seat of the Matsura clan lords of Hirado han.


Hirado was a prominent port since at least the late 13th century, when a detachment of samurai were sent specifically to defend the port from potential Mongol attacks.

Following a year in Kagoshima, Francis Xavier relocated to Hirado in 1550, before moving on to Chôshû. The first Spanish ships arrived at Hirado in 1584. The Dutch first came in 1609, establishing their own factory there that year, followed by the English East India Company in 1613. Chinese and European trading ships were restricted in 1616 to calling only at Hirado and Nagasaki, and the British factory closed in 1623 after only ten years of operation, crowded out by their competitors.

Meanwhile, the Chinese continued to far outnumber the Europeans, as they did at ports throughout the region; Dutch records show that thirty Chinese ships called at Hirado in 1612, sixty or seventy in 1614, and seventy or eighty in 1631.[1] The Chinese community at Hirado was somewhat self-governing, headed by shuinsen merchant Li Dan at the beginning of the 17th century; after Li's death in 1625, Zheng Zhilong took over his position.

As the Iberians were banned from Japan in the 1630s, the Dutch were restricted to Hirado in 1639, before being removed to Nagasaki shortly afterwards and restricted to Dejima in 1641.


  1. Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 26.