I was lucky enough to have found this article the other day.  It comes from Japan Daily Press.

400-year-old letter shows start of diplomatic relations between Vietnam, Japan

400-year-old letter shows start of diplomatic relations between Vietnam, Japan

A rare and very old letter was given recently to the Kyushu National Museum that marked what probably was the beginning of diplomatic and trade relations between Vietnam and Japan. The piece of correspondence is estimated to be around 400 years old, written by a Vietnamese official to Japan.

The letter was found in a shop dealing in old and rare book volumes in the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto, and was immediately placed with other such letters in the Kyushu National Museum. “The letter expresses ancient Vietnam’s strong determination to trade with Japan,” said Reio Fujita, a representative of the museum. “It is quite a valuable document that shows the two countries setting up an official relationship more than 400 years ago.” From its contents, the letter was dated on March 21, 1591 and written in behalf of the Vietnamese king Le The Tong to Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-98). Before this discovery, the oldest known correspondence between the two nations was a similar letter – now unfortunately lost – sent to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) in 1601. According to the museum, this letter proves that there has been diplomatic relations between Japan and Vietnam even before 1601.

The letter starts out with the words “From An Nam”, referring to the ancient traditional name of Vietnam. Mandarin Nguyen Thu Gian, who through the missive expressed his king’s desire for diplomatic relations with Japan, signed the letter. Also mentioned in the letter was a gift from An Nam’s royal court – a shipment of elephant tusks – sent to the Japanese leader together with the letter.

How I would love to explore old bookstores and libraries of Kyoto, imagine what I could find.