Translated by Richard Perkins
A Stroll Through Dejima - Where Japanese And Dutch Culture Coexist
Streetcars run through the center of Nagasaki, and close by is an area that seems to appear out of nowhere, an area that looks as if it’s from Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868). This is Dejima, an area that was built in the Edo period.
Written by Maki
In the city of Nagasaki, close to the center where streetcars run, is an area that seems to appear out of nowhere. It’s an area that looks as if it’s from Japan’s Edo period (1603-1868). This area is known as Dejima. It was an area built specifically for Japan and Holland to be able to carry out trade relations. The buildings from that time period are slowly being restored now. Take a stroll among these buildings and you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. We’re going to introduce the must visit areas in Dejima, the former stage for trade relations.
The 380 Years of History Surrounding Dejima
Dejima is an artificial island that was built back in 1636. In the Edo period, Christianity was banned from Japan. So Dejima was built in order to separate the Japanese from the Portuguese who lived in Nagasaki. At the time, Dejima was an island on its own but is now connected to the rest of Japan.
Before long, the Dutch East Indian Company opened up an office on Dejima. Because in the Edo period Japan restricted its trade relations with other countries, Dutch and East Asian trading ships were the only ships allowed to lower their anchors there. It was Japan’s one and only trading port.
At the end of the Edo period and towards the beginning of the Meiji period (1868-1912) reconstruction of buildings and the reclamation of land took place. Dejima became buried under all the reconstruction. For those interested in seeing what Dejima looked like back in the Edo period, a scale model of the area from that time period is displayed in a garden at Dejima.
Reconstructed Stores and Houses of the Edo Period
Currently, you can experience the atmosphere of what Dejima was like when traders from the Netherlands first stepped foot there.
This colorful building covered in blue is the old Dejima seminary, which is a Christian theological school. It might not look like it, but it’s actually the oldest Protestant seminary in existence in Japan today.
This English style building with striking green pillars is the old Nagasaki Home and Abroad Club.
In the skipper’s room of the Number 1 Boat, which was the home that the captain of the Dutch ship lived in, you can try on some traditional Japanese clothes. Taking a picture and having a stroll around Dejima in a kimono seems like it’d be a lot of fun, doesn't it?
The Mysterious Living Spaces of Edo - A Blend of Japanese and Western Styles
The green exterior and striking design are the distinguishing features of this building known as the Captain’s Home. Back in the Edo period, this building was used by the head of the Dutch factories.
On the 2nd floor you can take a look at a room that has been recreated to look the same as it did when still in use. A carpet has been placed on top of the tatami and furniture such as tables and chairs have been placed on top of the carpet. It’s a blend of Japanese and Western styles that makes for a bit of an odd environment.
In this room you can see what it was like when they held a party. There are meat dishes with bread and wine lined up on the table, slightly different to what Japanese people ate back then.
On the 2nd floor of the Skipper’s Room of the Number 1 Boat, there’s no futon. A bed is placed directly on top of the tatami. You can see that the traders from the Netherlands brought their European lifestyles with them.
Medicine and Culture - The Technology of Dejima
This is the old stone storehouse, a rather profound building built at the end of the Edo period (as its name implies) out of stone. Nowadays this building is used to exhibit a number of items that have been unearthed in Dejima.
The tableware here is Arita porcelain. Within the traditional Japanese design, you can see the letters VOC, which is short for the Dutch East Indian Company. These plates are fairly unique, as they blend together both European and Oriental designs.
You can see a number of books on display such as the New Book of Anatomy, which was the first book released in Japan about European medicine. You can also see a dictionary on display that was used when translating Dutch into Japanese. By having a look at the books on display, it becomes clear that Dejima was the area that was at the forefront for gathering a wide variety of information.
Among the daily items and literature on display is a pistol that was no doubt used for self-defense. By looking at the pistol you can just imagine the trade that took place and also get a vivid image of what the area in where people lived was like at the time.
The area surrounding Dejima has changed quite a bit due to the development of the land. Having said that, everything from reconstructed stores and shops from the Edo period to the blend of Japanese and European cultures can be seen throughout this island. From this small island, you can feel the adventurous spirit in the history of trade that brought together Europe and East Asia.
By all means, visit Dejima and experience the 380-year story that this island holds.