My project investigates Japan's port communities in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, a period marked by the dynamic expansion of commerce abroad and political integration at home. I look at the ports of Shimonoseki, Sakai, Nagasaki, and Ishinomaki during the period 1547-1634, asking how their encounters with a diverse of array of foreigners and resurgent political authority shaped how they conceived of their communal identity and how they perceived their place in the world. Eschewing the elite diplomatic and economic histories which have dominated this field of Japanese history, I focus on the local actors—monks, smugglers, pirates, and provincial traders—who oversaw the development of arms manufacture in Sakai, policed and plundered Inland Sea trade routes, bargained with missionaries and warlords alike in Nagasaki, and dispatched an embassy to the Spanish throne from Ishinomaki in the decades leading up to and after the political consolidation of the country under the Tokugawa shogunate in 1600. I assert that this combination of economic opportunity, political turmoil, and the lived experiences of the archipelago's port communities defined the contours of local, regional, and nascent national identity across the archipelago. By narrating Japan's history during this time not through the lens of isolation, but encounter, I contextualize the Japanese experience within the waterways of East and Southeast Asia, host to the competing agendas of terrestrial states, bustling etrepots, privateers, and the initial outposts of aspiring empire. I address the intersection of local lived experience and global networks of exchange, and weave this convergence together into an exploration of ground-up responses to emergent state power.