Dejima Trading Post

Enforcing a strict isolationist policy, the 17th century Japanese Tokugawa shogunate decided to allow trade with only the Chinese and the Dutch, who on behalf of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), had traded with Japan since 1609.

Japanese authorities wanted to keep a close watch on the Dutch, who were forced to stay on Dejima, an artificial island in the Bay of Nagasaki, where they took up residence in 1641. Spanning just 393 x 246 feet, Dejima consisted of warehouses, residences and accommodations for temporary visits from Japanese officials. Connecting it to mainland Nagasaki was a small bridge, guarded at all times. At any given time, there were only about twenty inhabitants.

Though social exchange with the Japanese remained tightly restricted, the settlement played a role in the diffusion of European scientific developments in the region. Japanese samurai studied Western medicine, astronomy, botany and military science, and the Dutch language. But many exchanges were less scholarly and more carnal in nature. The only women allowed to visit Dejima were prostitutes.

The items the Dutch introduced to Japan through Dejima include beer, chocolate, coffee, badminton, billiards, photography and the piano.

Over the course of two-plus centuries, more than six hundred Dutch ships arrived at Dejima. The Dutch trading post was abolished in 1858. Japan declared the island a national historic site in 1922, and gradual restoration and reconstruction of the site to resemble what it looked like as a Dutch trading post is ongoing.

For more in-depth coverage of Dejima, read Issue 60 of Dutch the magazine.

To receive information about the Netherlands, the Dutch, and the Dutch diaspora, on a regular basis, subscribe to Dutch the magazine!

Original article by: Ray Cavanaugh