Dejima – Japan’s First Western Contact

Apart from being the site of the second A-Bomb, Nagasaki is famous for being the first centre of contact between Japan and the Western World.

This took place on the tiny island of Dejima where Portugese, and later Dutch traders were allowed to operate. Portugese contact dates back as far as 1571 but they were banned from Japan in 1639. Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world around this time, but trade still took place (mostly in sugar) through a Dutch settlement which began in 1641 began and operated right through the closed period which ended in 1857.

With only one bridge to the island, western settlement was effectively controlled and access to the local community limited. However the Dutch were responsible for the introduction of western science and medicine into Japan. It is no coincidence that there is a greater concentration of Christian churches in the area around Nagasaki than any other area of Japan.

One little known fact is that at one period, the only place in the world where the Dutch flag flew was in Japan. For a short period during the 17th Century, the French were occupying the Netherlands, and at the same time, the British were usurping power of the Dutch East Indies operations. For five years, this left the island of Dejima as the only area in the world jnder Dutch control.

Now In Nagasaki, the site of this settlement has been preserved (although no longer an island due to land reclamation) and the buildings recreated in their original form. We spent a very interesting time exploring this site.

One comment

  1. Berry · ·

    Sorry to tell but Dejima has never been under Dutch control.
    In order to solidify its ban on Christianity and to confirm the expulsion of the Portuguese, the Tokugawa Shogunate required the Dutch to provide information about Catholic priests still hiding in Japan and the lingering influence of the Portuguese. This in fact was one of the conditions upon which the Shogunate agreed to permit trade with the Dutch East India Company. Upon the arrival of each Dutch ship, the Japanese interpreters visited the Dutch chief factor to collect information, which was translated, submitted to the Nagasaki Magistrate with the signatures of the interpreter and Dutch director, and then sent to the seat of the Shogunate in Edo