Japanese Mercenaries

Japanese mercenaries were crucial participants in the Amboyna conspiracy trial. The trial was sparked by the appearance of a Japanese mercenary, Shichizō, on the walls of Amboyna castle and ten Japanese mercenaries were executed on 9 March 1623 as a result of the trial. And yet despite their obvious importance, Japanese mercenaries have been strikingly neglected in accounts of what happened at Amboyna. This exhibit explores the history of Japanese mercenaries in Southeast Asia, why the Company recruited these soldiers and what happened to these mercenaries at Amboyna.

Documents & Topics

Recruiting Mercenaries in Japan
How did a cohort of Japanese mercenaries end up thousands of miles from their homes on a remote island in Southeast Asia?
'We can get great help from Japan'
Surveying a highly militarized Japan filled with unemployed samurai, Dutch officials began to believe that Japan's warlike energies could be harnessed and converted to the Company's advantage by recruiting hundreds of soldiers and shipping them overseas.
Like Devils Outside Their Land
Not all Dutch officials shared the same vision of Japanese troops as their superiors. The Japanese are,” one VOC merchant lamented, “dangerous to govern … they are lambs [in Japan] and like devils outside their land.”
Mercenaries at Amboyna
Amboyna begins with the interrogation of Shichizō, a 24-year-old mercenary from Hirado. Who were the Japanese mercenaries arrested and executed at Amboyna and what can we really know about them.