Historic relations of Japan and Vietnam


While (〜している間) traveling across Vietnam I kept seeing a particular store called Japanese Shop that primarily (主に) sold imported goods. I was a little curious about that. (それが少し気になった) I asked my friend, who then was guiding me through Hai Phong. He told me, “Japanese products are really popular in Vietnam right now.” It’s not merely (= only) Japanese products, but Japan itself that is increasingly (ますます) popular in this Southeast Asian country. Vietnam’s an expanding middle class and one of the fastest-growing economies with a gross domestic product just 11 years behind (劣勢、遅れ) China’s. 

It has a young population—about 56 million people, or almost 60% of the country, is under 35—making it an alluring (魅力的な) market for Japanese overseas investment. In 2017, Japan was Vietnam’s biggest investor with about US$9.11 billion, meaning 25.4% of its total foreign direct investment (FDI) came from Tokyo. Much of this FDI has been directed towards (向ける、注ぐ) infrastructure development. For example, I was able to cross the Cau Binh—a 1,280 meter (4,200 foot), cable-stayed bridge connecting Hai Phong City with the Thuy Nguyen district—constructed between 2002 and 2005 with 7,426 million yen.

Japanese–Vietnamese relations  are over a millennium (1000年) old, and the establishment (設立) of friendly trade relations can be traced (由来する) to at least the 16th century. Modern (現代の) relations between the two countries are based on Vietnam’s developing economy (開発途上経済) and Japan’s role as an investor and foreign aid donor (対外援助提供者).



Early contact

In the 8th century, Abe no Nakamaro (阿倍仲麻呂:698 – 770), a descendant (子孫) of the Imperial House of Japan,  entered the Chinese civil service (公務員) under the Tang (唐) dynasty (王朝) and eventually (結局) served as governor (知事) of Annam (ハノイ の安南郡) from 761 to 767. 

An archaeological dig (考古学的な発掘で) in Kyushu, the most southwesterly of the four main islands of Japan, revealed (現われた) fragments (断片) of a Vietnamese ceramic (陶器) with the inscribed (刻まれた) date of 1330. It is unknown how the fragments arrived there, although trade with Chinese or Javanese merchants could have brought the piece to Japan.



16th to 17th century

As early as (という早い時期に) the 16th century, contact (接触) between Japan and Vietnam came in the form of (〜の形で) trade and bartering (物々交換). Along with (〜とともに)  Siam (シャム: Thailand) and Malaysia, Japanese red seal ships frequented (しばしば行った) Vietnamese ports. Vietnamese records (記録) show that when the port of Hội An was opened by Lord Nguyễn Hoàng  in the early 17th century, hundreds of Japanese traders were already residing (住んでいた) there.

Vietnamese traders bought silver, copper (銅) and bronze (青銅) from Japan in exchange for Vietnamese silk, sugar, spices and sandalwood  (白檀・ビャクダン), which fetched (とってくる、連れてくる) a huge profit back in Japan. In order to handle the influx (流入、到来、殺到) of traders, a Japanese district called Nihonmachi was set up at Hội An. The metals trade was vital (極めて重要な) to the Nguyen lords (The Nguyen lords:1558–1777, also known as Nguyen clan or House of Nguyen, were rulers of the Kingdom of Đàng Trong in Central and Southern Vietnam), for they needed coins for commerce (商業) and bronze to cast (成型する) guns.


The two countries enjoyed a warm degree of friendship. Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康:He was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan, which effectively ruled Japan from the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868) exchanged  amicable (友好的な、平和的な) letters and gifts with Lord Nguyen. Traders from Japan often donated money to the locals and were treated well. Many settled (落ち着いた) and assimilated (同化した) into their new surroundings (環境).

When Japan entered a period of self-isolation (鎖国), trade continued to flow (流れ続けた), either through the planning of permanent residents (定住者) or through intermediary (仲介者) Dutch merchants. However, in 1685 the Tokugawa shogunate became aware of (気づいた) the nation’s overexploited (過度に利用する) silver and copper mines (鉱山), and a trade restriction (取引規制) was put in place (実施されるようになった). Due to the importance of these metals, the new regulations (規制) dampened (弱めた) trade between Japan and Vietnam, as well as (~と同様に) much of South Asia.



After the Vietnam War

During the Vietnam War of the 1950s and 1970s (1955 – 1975), Japan consistently (一貫して) encouraged (励ました、促した) a negotiated settlement (和解) at the earliest possible date (できるだけ早く). Even before the hostilities (交戦) ended, it had made contact with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) government and had reached an agreement to establish diplomatic relations in 1973. 

Implementation (実施), however, was delayed by North Vietnamese demands (要求) that Japan pay the equivalent (等価物) of US$45 million in World War II reparations (補償) in two yearly (毎年の) installments (分割払い), in the form of “economic cooperation “ (経済協力) grants (補助金). Giving in (〜に屈服する) to the Vietnamese demands, Japan paid the money and opened an embassy in Hanoi in 1975. 

Japanese exports to Vietnam emphasized (強調された) chemicals (化学製品), textiles (織物), machinery (機械), and transportation equipment (輸送装置). In return, Vietnamese exports to Japan comprised (成った) mostly (大部分は) marine products (海産物) and coal (石炭).



Modern times

At the end of the 1980s, Vietnam was faced with international isolation, waning (弱まり) Soviet bloc support, continued (継続的な) armed resistance (武装抵抗) in Laos,  and large-scale economic problems at home. Hanoi withdrew (引っ込めた) most if not all of its combat troops (全てではないにしてもその実践部隊のほとんどを) from Cambodia in 1989. It appealed (訴えた) to developed countries (先進諸国に) to open channels (経路を開けること) of economic cooperation (経済協力), trade, and aid (援助). 

Although some Japanese businesses were interested in investment and trade with Vietnam and Cambodia, the Japanese government still opposed (反対した) economic cooperation with those countries until there had been a comprehensive (包括的な)  settlement (和解) in Laos. This stand (姿勢) was basically consistent with (〜と一致する) United States policy of the time (当時の). 


Japan gave informal (非公式の) assurances (保証) that Tokyo was prepared to bear (負担する) a large share (株式) of the financial burden (負担) to help with reconstruction aid to Laos, whenever a comprehensive settlement was reached, and to help fund UNimporta or other international peacekeeping forces (平和維持軍), should they be required. Japan carried through on its promises (約束をやり遂げた). In 1991, Japan promptly (すぐに) established (樹立して) diplomatic relations (外交関係) and ended economic restrictions (規制) with Cambodia and Vietnam. In 1992, Tokyo offered Vietnam US$370 million in aid.

Japan also took a leading role (主要な役割) in peacekeeping activities (平和維持活動) in Cambodia. Japan’s Akashi Yasushi, UN undersecretary (次官) for disarmament (軍備縮小), was head of the UN Transitional (移行する) Authority (権限) in Cambodia, and Japan pledged (誓約し) US$3 million and even sent approximately (およそ) 2,000 personnel (人員), including members of the SDF (自衛隊:Self-Defense Force), to participate directly in maintaining the peace. Despite the loss of a Japanese peacekeeper killed in an ambush (待ち伏せ), the force remained in Cambodia until the Cambodians were able to elect and install (任命する) a government.



The Nhật Tân Bridge (ニャッタン橋:世界最大級の斜張橋:or Vietnam–Japan Friendship Bridge) is a cable-stayed bridge crossing the Red River in Hanoi, inaugurated (開始された) in 2015. It forms part of a new six-lane highway linking Hanoi and Noi Bai International Airport. The project is funded by a Japan International Cooperation Agency ODA loan.




Vietnam joined ASEAN  in 1995 and the establishment of the ASEAN Plus Three consultations in 1997, which include China, Japan, and South Korea. These nations share a place in the Southeast Asian economy and security framework (骨組み、枠組み) . Japan is Vietnam’s single biggest donor country. In 2007, it pledged $US890 million in aid for the country, a 6.5 percent increase from the 2006 level of $US835.6 million. Vietnam and Japan have opened a centre for research into rare earth minerals to challenge China’s monopoly (独占権) of supply. The elements are crucial (重要な) for many modern technologies, including computers, TVs and wind turbines.

In 2010 Japan and Vietnam signed an agreement to co-operate (協力する) in the exploitation (開発、開拓) of the minerals. Vietnam is reckoned (みなす、考える) to be in the top ten in the world in terms of (〜の点で、〜に関して) rare earth reserves (蓄え). Now the two have opened a jointly financed technology centre to help to process and separate the ore (鉱石) with the rare elements then shipped to Japan.


The Official Developmental Assistance (ODA) pledged for 2011 by Japan reached 1.76 billion US dollars, which was four times larger than the donation from South Korea, Vietnam’s second biggest donor, at 412 million. Moreover (さらに、その上), Japan’s 2012 committed (約束する、引き渡す) amount of donation to Vietnam raised to 3 billion dollars. Bilateral (双方の、両側の) cooperation on defense has been enhanced (高める,増す) since the Haiyang Shiyou 981 incident (出来事,事件) in 2014, as both countries have experienced territorial issues with China.

In a speech in 2014, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (安倍晋三)  affirmed (断言する、主張する) that Japan would provide Southeast Asian nations its “utmost (最大限の) support” in their South China Sea territorial disputes (論争). It was informed by General Nguyen Chi Vinh, Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Defense that Vietnam expected to receive several coast guard ships from Japan in early 2015. The first of those vessels (船) was delivered to the Vietnam Coast Guard in February 2015.