Japan had sought to control Taiwan since 1592, when Toyotomi Hideyoshi began extending Japanese influence overseas. In 1609, the Tokugawa Shogunate sent Arima Harunobu on an exploratory mission. In 1616, Murayama Toan led an unsuccessful invasion of the island.
In 1871, an Okinawan vessel shipwrecked on the southern tip of Taiwan and the crew of fifty-four was beheaded by the Paiwan aborigines. The Ryūkyū Kingdom kept a tributary relationship with Great Qing Empire at the same time was subordinate to Satsuma Domain of Japan. When Japan sought compensation from Qing China, it was first rejected because Qing considered the incident an internal affair since Taiwan was a prefecture of Fujian Province of Qing and the Ryūkyū Kingdom was a tributary of Qing. When Japanese foreign minister Soejima Taneomi asked the compensation again claiming four of the victims were Japanese citizens from Okayama prefecture of Japan, Qing officials rejected the demand on the grounds that the "wild" and "unsubjugated" aboriginals (traditional Chinese: 台灣生番; simplified Chinese: 台湾生番; pinyin: Táiwān shēngfān) were outside its jurisdiction. Such aboriginals were treated extremely harshly; American consul J.W. Davidson described how the Chinese in Taiwan ate and traded in their aboriginal victims' flesh. The open renunciation of sovereignty led to a Japanese invasion of Taiwan. In 1874, an expeditionary force of three thousand troops was sent to the island. There were about thirty Taiwanese and 543 Japanese casualties (twelve in battle and 531 by endemic diseases for the Japanese side).