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1496 saw the third journey of Columbus set up bases in what was soon to become the Spanish Indies, establishing the first European trading post in the valuable Banda Spice islands, at Tidore.
John Cabot, sailing in the pay of the English crown, lead an expedition of the single caravel Matthew to the west. He sailed through the Kuril islands, sighting and naming Hope Island (OTL Shiashkotan) and eventually landed at Vzmorye, Sakhalin, where after hunting for pelts, he continued down the coast. He eventually reached Japan, and sailing down Cabot attempting repeatedly to make trade overture, such as at Hiraizumi, which were all mostly unsuccessful. Cabot eventually made the return journey to England, where he told Henry VII of the wealth of opportunities which the new route afforded. A second journey was planned, which would set sail in 1499.
The treaty of Tordesillas had been agreed in 1494, dividing interests east of the Azores to Portugal and those west to Spain. In keeping with this, the new Portuguese king Manuel I commissioned Vasco Da Gama to seek out a route to the Indies around the southern cape of Africa. Gama managed to do this on his first voyage, successfully rounding the cape, exploring the Swahili coast and reaching Malabar coast at Calicut.
Alonso de Ojeda, reached India from the west, and established a Spanish claim at Batticaloa, though this would fall in the next couple of years to attacks from the Kingdom of Kandy.
John Cabot made his second voyage to Sakhalin with more ships and staying in the Cape of Patience, he established a base for logging and furs at OTL Okhotskoye, which he named Henricia.
King Manuel I commissioned two Indian Armadas to find the quickest route to Portuguese interests in India on the Malabar coast, Vasco Da Gama was sent west, while Pedro Alvares Cabral was sent around Africa. Gama on his journey first visited the Japanese west coast, Gama then landed in Ningbo, China, the first Portuguese mission to the country, where he did some trade. Upon leaving he seized two galleys, setting a precedent of piratical behaviour of early Portuguese explorers in China. Moving on the two fleets eventually met at Kochin, where they founded the local ruler very willing to trade, being oppressed by the local Zamorin of Calicut and seeking independence. As Gama had arrived first, the two fleet combined under his command and they returned via the western route, stopping at Colombo and again holding trade talks with the King of Kotte. Returning to Portugal via the Straits of Malacca, upon his return Cabral was the first man to complete a circumnavigation of the world.
Gaspar and Miguel Corte Real explored the sea of Okotsk, then discovering Antilia on their return. They claimed the island for Portugal which was quickly backed up by a trading post a few years later.
In this year the duke Denis I of Azores started writing his Crônica do Japão, a large book that offered a résumé of the "Japaneses continent" and its outskirts (Ryūkyū, China, Manchuria, Korea, etc ...) to the European philosophers. Some terms were changed by Denis himself to make them more understandable to the European civilization. For example, the term "samurai" was changed by "knight", "shogun", by "king", "daimyo", by nobility titles, commonly "duke" or "lord", and the figure of the Tenno (Emperor of Japan) was seen as a kind of Pope (Denis many times referred him as the "Pope in Tokyo").
Another work written by him in co-operation with Hosokawa Masamoto and some Japanese philosophers was Historia Regum Nihonniæ, another large work that didn't sum up the culture and geography of Japan, but the history. The main objective was legitimate the access of Ashikaga Yoshizumi to the throne, following the typical European succession laws.
With Vasco Da Gama disgraced after his failure to punish the Zamorin of Calicut in the 4th Indian Armada, and securing Portuguese trading interests on the Malabar Coast, Afonso de Albuquerque was chosen to lead the next Portuguese expedition to India. Setting sail from Portugal with 12 ships and 900 men, Albuquerque used the easterly trade winds to make for the Spanish Indies. Sailing through, he established a Portuguese trading factory on Ternate, to rival the Spanish base on nearby Tidore. Progressing on to the Straits of Malacca, in a sudden audacious move, Albuquerque attacked Malacca, taking the city after bombarding it heavily from the harbour. The Sultan of Malacca fled, and being a tributary state to the Ming dynasty, he appealed to the Chinese court. This soured relations between Portugal and China, with Portuguese merchants and trader seized and imprisoned in multiple Chinese ports. Nevertheless the Portuguese held the Straits of Malacca and enforced their rule, building a fort there before moving on to India.
Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes, leads armed divisions to aid Ouchi Yoshioki in restoring the deposed shogun Ashikaga Yoshitane.
Spanish explorers charting the extent of Hispaniola (OTL Papua New Guinea) reached the north coast of Australia. As with Hispaniola, the Spanish quickly built up colonial settlements down the eastern coast, using forest for lumber and replacing them with farms, enslaving the local population and introducing non native plant and animal life, besides diseases, which would prove fatal for the native inhabitants of the islands.
Japanese sailors first made the journey west in this year, ending up in the Kingdom of Thomond, Ireland, due to Oceanic Gyres. They did some small trade and held council with King Toirdelbhach Donn MacTadhg Ó Briain. The Japanese were never particular interested in trade, when far cheaper alternatives were closer to home, but occasionally voyages such as this one, helped cement the beginnings of Japanese-Irish relations, which would see some minor Japanese daimyos helping to resist the Tudor invasion.
By 1516 the Spanish had reached OTL Tasmania under Juan De Grijalva, charting the eastern coast. De Grijalva would go on to discover OTL New Zealand in 1535.
Also in this year, in May, the Luso Sundanese Padrao was completed, solidifying the alliance between the Portuguese controlled Straits of Malacca and the Sundanese Kingdom. The latter was facing encroachment intro its territory from the Islamic Sultanates of Cirebon and Bantem, while the former was supposedly set against the spread of Islamic interests in the Indies, though evidently also saw an opportunity to increase their control of Java and access to the Indian Sea. The padrao allowed the Portuguese to construct a fortress at the mouth of the Ciliwung river. This also led to the Portuguese raids on Cirebon, Aceh and finally Demak.