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Rodrigo de Vivero y Velasco (1564-1636) was a Spanish colonial officer from New Spain, and interim governor of the Philippinesmarker from June 15, 1608 to April 1609. He was a native of Laredo, Spainmarker.

While in Manilamarker, Rodrigo de Vivero y Velasco was confronted with the insurrection of the Japanese enclaves in the Philippines, especially Dilaomarker. He deported some of the Japanese back to Japan and implemented trade control. Soon after however, he received messages from William Adams on behalf of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who wished to establish direct trade contacts with New Spain. Friendly letters were exchanged, officially starting relations between Japan and New Spain.

His term as governor of the Philippines ended at Easter, 1609. Thereafter he was appointed count of Valle, and governor, captain-general, and president of the Audiencia of Panamamarker.

On 30 September 1609, on his way back to Mexico, Rodrigo's ship, the San Francisco became shipwrecked in Japan with a crew of 373, near Iwada in Kazusa Province (today Chibamarker). Of the two other ships which accompanied Rodrigo, the Santa Ana rallied another Japanese harbour safely, but the other, San Antonio, disappeared. Rodrigo de Vivero y Velasco spent 9 months in Japan and met extensively with authorities, with the help of Luis Sotelo.

He left Japan on board a ship built by William Adams, the San Buena Ventura in August 1610. (He could have left on the Santa Ana, but wished to accompany the Japanese so that they could be welcome without trouble in New Spain). He was accompanied by 23 Japanese representatives on his way back, led by the Kyoto trader Tanaka Shosuke (田中勝助). They became the first Japanese recorded to cross the Pacific.

They were also accompanied by the Franciscan Father Alonso Muños, who was the official envoy of Tokugawa Ieyasu to negotiate trade with the Spanish authorities. The Shogun also lent them the equivalent of 4,000 ducados for the trip.

During his stay, Rodrigo established a treaty with the Japanese, offering extraterritorial privileges for a Spanish shipyard and a naval base in eastern Japan in exchange for transpacific trade and Mexican silver mining technology. Rodrigo also requested the mapping of Japanese coasts, freedom for the activities of Catholic priests and the expulsion of the Dutch.

Luis de Velasco, the viceroy of Nueva España, received the 23 Japanese and expressed his great satisfaction at the treatment the Spanish sailors had received in Japan. He decided to send an embassy to Japan in the person of the famous explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno.

Vizcaíno also had a mission to return the 4,000 ducados and to research "gold and silver islands" supposedly to the east of Japan. He left for Japan on 22 March 1611, and after another shipwreck would eventually return in 1613 onboard the Japanese-built galleon San Juan Bautistamarker with the first official Japanese embassy to the Americas and Europe, led by Hasekura Tsunenaga.


  • Blair, Emma Helen and James Alexander Robertson, eds., The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898: Volume XVII, 1606-160, a documentary history of the islands. It is available on-line in English at Project Gutenberg. It can be accessed or downloaded here.

External links

  • List of governors of the Philippines
  • An Unscheduled Visit: Rodrigo de Vivero in Japan, 1609-1610 by Michael Cooper Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, fourth series, volume 22, 2008 SUPPLEMENT ISBN 978-4-9903922-1-5 [290881]

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