The Japanese islands occupy, with respect to Asia, a similar position to Britain with respect to Europe. But in fact the effects of this geographical proximity have by no means been similar. During the Middle Ages, England became an integral part of Christian Europe through cultural, economic as well as political interaction. The language barrier was overcome through a com­ mon lingua franca, and racially the English did not constitute a distinct self-conscious group. All these features were different in the case of Japan, and became more so through the policies of the Tokugawa.