Overseas Chinese in Japan

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Chinese have been traveling to and settling in Japan in small numbers since the earliest historical periods. In the Nara through Muromachi periods, it is perhaps Chinese Buddhist monks who are the most prominent in the historiography, bringing new Buddhist sects, architectural styles, and cultural practices.

By the late 16th century, there were notable numbers of Chinese living amid and among the wider Japanese community in a number of places throughout Kyushu, including Miyakonojô, Usuki, Funai, Kumamoto, Ikura, Hakata, Kokura, Shimabara, Hirado, the Gotô Islands, and various places in Satsuma and Ôsumi provinces, as well as in Yamaguchi (western Honshû), Matsuyama (Shikoku), and Odawara and Kawagoe (in the Kantô, near Edo).[1]

Following the imposition of maritime restrictions in the 1630s, Nagasaki became the only chief center of Chinese activity in Japan. However, while those resident in Nagasaki were generally merchants and traders, there were also a number of Chinese Confucian scholars, Buddhist monks, and intellectuals otherwise, based in Kyoto, Osaka, Edo, and elsewhere, who also played influential roles in policy and intellectual developments.


Nara Period

Heian Period

Kamakura Period

Muromachi Period

Many of the Chinese who settled, or were active, in Japan in the late 16th century were traders, pirates, raiders, or smugglers, monks, or scholars who traveled to Japan willingly. However, many were also taken to Japan as captives of pirates or raiders, and sold into slavery. Among the traders, too, one might draw a division between pirate-smugglers and their descendants, and those hired by daimyô or other Japanese elites to serve as their advisors or officials.


  • Arano Yasunori. "The Formation of a Japanocentric World Order." International Journal of Asian Studies 2:2 (2005), 194- XXX.
  1. Arano, 194.