The government of Japan would be well pleased to encourage trade with all nations, but for two considerations. The first is, lest their religion should be insulted, which was frequently the case from misguided zeal, while there were any Christians among the Japanese. The other proceeds from their aversion to strange customs, or to any innovation in the manners of the people, from which they dread the worst consequences. When the Dutch were first established in this empire, the then prime minister explained their opinions on this subject in the following manner: “We are well acquainted with the advantages resulting from the system of government established among us, and will on no account run the hazard of any change. We know that great revolutions are often brought about by imperceptible degrees, and are therefore resolved to cure the itch of novelty by the rod of chastisement.” Upon this maxim a law is established in Japan, by which all the subjects of the empire are prohibited from leaving the country; or, if any do, they must never return. They are so wedded to their own customs and opinions, and so jealous of the introduction of any new or foreign customs, that they never send any embassies to other countries, neither do they allow their merchants to carry on commerce beyond their own country. A few small junks are sent in summer to the land of Yedso, a country about fifty leagues from the northern extremity of Japan; and it is said that they bring much gold from thence.
There is but one good harbour in Japan, all the rest of the coast being so guarded by steep rocks or shoals, that they have no reason to fear being invaded. In point of military discipline and bravery, the Japanese far exceed the Chinese, and are by no means of so base and effeminate dispositions as most of the inhabitants of that great empire. The government also of Japan is perfectly uniform and well settled, so that there cannot be any diversity of interests; for, though several of its provinces are denominated kingdoms, yet all these petty kings are under the strictest subjection to the emperor, and the laws of the country extend over all. These laws pay the strictest regard to private property, the father transmitting to his children not only the patrimonial estate, but all the acquisitions of his own industry; and this is certainly a powerful prevention of any desire of change. Though the emperor resides at Jeddo, thirty days journey from Naugasaki, yet he receives intelligence in the space of three days, of the number and force of every ship that arrives, conveyed by a chain of signal-posts, by means of flags and fire beacons.