JAPAN

An exclusive trading post A trading permit from the Japanese shogun in 1609 gave the start to an exceptional relationship between Japan and the Netherlands. For over two centuries, the Dutch enjoyed the right to stay in Japan and conduct business as the only Westerners there. The Dutch were the only contact for the Japanese with the outside western world.

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148. Chinese trading post

The Dutch were the only Europeans permitted to conduct trade. The Chinese were the only other foreigners trading in Japan in the 17th and 18th centuries, albeit on a limited scale. They also had their own settlement in Nagasaki. Ground plan of the Chinese factory in Nagasaki Approximately 1780 Collectie Aanwinsten Kaarten en Tekeningen, inv. no. 176

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149. Nagasaki

This is one of the oldest known plans of the port town of Nagasaki. The Dutch trading post on Deshima can be seen in the centre with the Chinese trading post to the left of it. Town plan of Nagasaki 1764 Collectie Aanwinsten Kaarten en Tekeningen, inv. no. 57

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150. Trade permit

The VOC ships Griffioen and Rode Leeuw met Pijlen under the command of Jacques Groenewegen arrived in Japan in 1609. They came with a mission: to sign a trade agreement. Nine years earlier, the crew of the ship De Liefde enjoyed a friendly reception, so they counted on a similar treatment. They were proven right, shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu was very

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151. Osaka

Osaka was a real commercial city. A visit was therefore always included in the annual courtly visits made by the VOC. This is the castle of the shogun. The description on this map is so highly detailed that it even includes what goods are stored in the warehouses. In the 1930s, a concrete reconstruction was erected on top of the ruins

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152. Export of porcelain

This porcelain bowl, hand-painted with floral patterns is a beautiful example of so-named ‘Imari’ porcelain. This richly decorated variant came onto the market at the end of the 17th century. But porcelain had already been exported to Europe from the Japanese city of Imari since 1659. Bowl of Imari porcelain 17th century On loan from the Keramiekmuseum Princessehof, Leeuwarden; the

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153. A book about Japan

This is a print from the book written by Engelbert Kaempfer about Japan. He was a German physician in the service of the VOC and collected all kinds of information about Japan during the years he lived on Deshima. In 1727, eleven years after Kaempfer died, an edition of his notes was published in print. The comprehensive description of the

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154. An order for thoroughbred horses

Not over nine years old and they have to be broken in. The coat colour is also precisely given. The shogun has particular requirements for the three Persian stallions he ordered from the Dutch traders. He added a drawing for clarity. Besides special pure-bred horses, there is also a demand for dogs, camels, elephants and tropical birds. The Japanese shogun

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155. The bill for a court journey

Visiting the court every year was quite an undertaking. At least a couple of hundred people undertook the journey: interpreters, guards, officials, grooms and porters. Various gift lists with the associated costs have been preserved. This account of the court journey from 1645 includes the overall costs: 758 guilders, which was quite a large amount. The last court visit took

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156. Increased knowledge of Japan

This book is a joint production by the director-general of the VOC in India and François Caron, chief of the VOC offices in Hirado. Caron used his experience of years in Japan for this book. His writing was of extreme importance for the dissemination in Europe of knowledge about Japan. Caron could be called the very first Japanologist. Rechte beschryvinge

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157. Dutchmen on buttons

A Dutchman with a moneybag and a dog and a Dutchman with a chicken under his arm. This was the way in which the Japanese frequently depicted the Dutch people. They can be seen here on ivory and wooden buttons, so-called ‘netsuke’, with which the Japanese attach their bag to their waist. ‘Netsuke’; Japanese waist buttons with images of Dutchmen

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158. Rugged men

Rugged men with red hair: the Japanese are quite impressed by the Europeans. They are often depicted in that way. Japanese drawing of an Englishman 1818 Archief Nederlandse Factorij in Japan, inv. no. 546

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159. Grave prospects

François Caron, chief of the VOC offices in Hirado, was worried about the prospects for trade with Japan. In this letter to Johannes van der Hage, the boss in Cambodia, he wrote that Japan is becoming less and less accessible for the outside world. For example the shogun prohibited the practice of Christianity because he feared that the Portuguese especially,

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160. Reference for reconstruction

The warehouse that was demolished in 1640 was rebuilt in 2011. Dutch architects De Kat & Vis used the original plans and an ancient accounting bill as a source for the reconstruction. The original specification document is very precise; it not only describes the type of building material and the number of stones, but even the dimensions of each stone.

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161. Kimonos in fashion

The shogun also gave presents to the VOC. By tradition these were precious kimonos made from silk brocade, the so-called ‘emperor clothes’ or ‘gift robes’. These comfortable Japanese robes quickly became fashionable with the elite in the Republic. Dressing gown or Japanese robe made of Chinese silk Second half of 18th century On loan from the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague

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162. Respectful demolition

At first, from 1609 to 1639, the Dutch lived in the existing wooden dwellings in Hirado. Their merchandise was stored in Japanese buildings on the quayside. Business was flourishing and VOC chief Nicolaas Coeckebacker constructed a stone warehouse in 1639. Yet he had not asked for permission from the shogun, and what’s more, the memorial stone refers to the Christian

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163. Closed island

Deshima (meaning literally: ‘the island that protrudes’) is a man-made island in the bay of the Port of Nagasaki. This is where the Dutch lived who, as the only Europeans, had the right to do business with Japan. Their freedom of movement was limited, the Japanese authorities kept a vigil eye on the Dutch. There are several versions of this

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164. Modern Japanese souvenirs with Dutch influences

The Japanese fascination with everything concerning the Dutch past in their country leads to a lively trade in all kinds of souvenirs. Here we see: a fan depicting a Dutchman with a cat on his arm and a dog at his feet. At his side a kneeling Dutchman with a serving tray. This fan was made by Hiroshi Oba. a

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The Netherlands in Japan

Tourist attraction What is it that moves Japanese tourists to visit the reconstructions of the Dutch settlements in Hirado and Deshima? And what do they know of the history of the VOC in their country? Japanese tourists visiting reconstructed Dutch buildings Interviews and edit by Remco Vrijdag, 2016

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175. Before and behind the mast

The ship’s surgeon was one of the most important officers on board. His cabin was nicely decorated with prints on the wall and a coffee service. There was a world of difference in lifestyle between ‘behind the mast’ and ‘before the mast’. Behind the mast there were the officers, merchants and passengers eating at a cloth covered dining table and

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165. Hirado

The Dutch tricolour flag flutters in the wind at the trading post. For the first few years of Dutch trade with Japan, VOC merchants only sail to Hirado. To the left of the Dutch Flag, there is the flag of the English trading post. Chart of the bay of Hirado 1621 Verzameling Buitenlandse Kaarten Leupe, inv. no. 1124

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166. Samples of Japanese copper

This is a random collection of Japanese copper samples, some wrapped up in a piece of paper with the price or place of origin written on it. Japanese copper was very popular on the markets in Asia, particularly in the 18th century. The VOC did a lot of profitable business: at a huge profit, the VOC exchanged copper with Chinese

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167. Korea

VOC accountant-general Hendrik Hamel suffered a double stroke of bad luck. He first suffered a shipwreck in 1653 with the Sperwer off the Korean island of Chejo-do. He was immediately taken prisoner together with seven of his colleagues. After thirteen years he managed to escape to the Dutch settlement Deshima in Japan. The report by Hamel remained the only source

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In the footsteps of Hendrik Hamel

Fragments from the radio documentary ‘in the footsteps of Hendrick Hamel, explorer against his will’, spoken by Fedja van Huet The Humanist Broadcasting Organisation, 2001 On loan from the Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Hilversum

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LIFE ON BOARD

Sleeping and eating Life on board a VOC ship was not comfortable, certainly for the ordinary sea-going hands. They slept in tight spaces below deck, ‘before the mast’. Officers, merchants and passengers were relatively better off in their aft cabins. Food is frugal and monotonous. The crew had to make do with ship’s biscuit, beans, barley and salted pork or

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168. Stowage list

The precious goods from China had to be laden very carefully in the ship Ouder-Amstel. This detailed drawing, a stowage list, made this overtly clear. Loading a VOC ship was an exacting art. The limited space has to be packed efficiently and it is important that the ship retains its balance. The first mate was responsible for this task. Stowage

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169. Vermin

Rats, mice, fleas and lice did not add much to life on board a VOC ship in the way of comfort. Having an itch was an everyday occurrence. Lice combs were therefore part of a seaman’s standard kit. Lice comb from the VOC ship the Vliegent Hart Approximately 1735 On loan from MuZeeum, Flushing  

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170. East Indiaman

This type of East Indiaman with a high stern with a poop deck and a flat transom, could hold a huge cargo. It was therefore the favourite type of ship used for the voyage between Amsterdam and Batavia, built and designed specifically for the VOC. It was called spiegelretourschip in Dutch (spiegel is the word for the decorated transom). In

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171. Dress code on board

English hats, linen smocks, short Frisian skirts – striped or plain – and long shirts; the crew wore predominantly practical clothing on board. That clarifies this list summarising the ship’s clothing and other articles for the crew. Different clothes were needed on the ships that sailed at Easter from the fleet that departed at Christmas. List and rules regarding the

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172. Shipboard rules

Flogging, keelhauling and iron branding were included in the tough punishments for breaking the shipboard regulations. To keep life on board at a decent level, maintaining discipline was sorely needed. After all, the crew lived in each other’s lap on the long voyages. The rules were laid down in an official document, on which the crew swore an oath before

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173. A fleet of VOC ships sailing in formation (behind the curtain)

When VOC ships leave in a flotilla, they were often ordered to sail in formation. The most important ship sailed in the centre and the faster ones sailed at the head. These ship models are copies of the original types of ship used by the VOC. The names of these models (Morgenster, Flissinghe, Gouden Leeuw, Walcheren) were inspired by historical

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174. A collective complaint

Sleeping below the pigs and other inconveniences; the crew of the ship Huis ter Eult had enough. They complained to the captain. They deliberately signed their complaint with their signatures forming a circle. They were united in their purpose and it made it impossible for the captain to single out one of them as the leader of the conspirators. Together

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176. Sea-chest

Every man on board had a sea-chest for his private possessions and for storing clothing, extra food and gin. It happened that these chests were broken into on voyage by another member of the crew. That was a good reason for the VOC governors to set high penalties for theft on board. To warn people, a notice was nailed to

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177. Mess mates

The crew on a VOC ship is divided into messes, each consisting of seven to ten hands who carry out the same work on board. They would share their food from one bowl, called bak in Dutch and this also became the Dutch word for ‘mess’. The Dutch have an expression meaning that if one missed out, you did not

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178. Food on board

The average breakfast aboard a VOC ship consisted of groats and prunes, thinned down with ale. For luncheon there were peas, beans and lard. Sometimes salted beef or fish was served and the leftovers were eaten in the evening with bread and ale. This diet in the provisioning book did not contain a sufficient amount of vitamins. As a result,

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179. Clean drinking water

One had to be very thrifty with drinking water, only a limited amount can be taken on board and it goes off quite quickly in warmer climates. The crew had to drink the water with clenched teeth to stop them from drinking bugs. No wonder that it was an enormous improvement when at the end of the 17th century a

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180. Ale

Ale was the alternative to spoilt drinking water. No less than 20,000 litres of ale were taken aboard some of the larger VOC ships, about 150 litres per hand. In addition to a measure of wine or gin, a hand would drink one to three pints a day. The ship’s surgeon might have poured some Spanish wine or brandy in

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181. Provisions

How did they keep food fresh and edible on such long sea voyages? How and where food was stored made a lot of difference. Commander Jan de Boer drew up this plan of the storage distribution of food in the hold. A ventilator in the cook’s galley (above the letter H on the drawing) ensures that it will not become

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182. Sentence for a murderer

The story of the Batavia is an unimaginable drama. The ship first grounded off the Australian west coast. The crew fortunately managed to get themselves to safety on some islands. Chief merchant François Pelsaert left in an open boat for Batavia to get help. Apothecary and deputy merchant Jeronimus Cornelisz and a few followers saw their chance to seize power.

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183. Journal

‘Sad journal entry in that we lost our ship Batavia, having struck the Abrolhos or Cliffs of Frederick Houtman’. Chief merchant François Pelsaert had the command over the ship Batavia and kept a journal. In it he accurately described the interrogation of the mutineers on the ship after running aground off Australia. He also recorded a list of the fate

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206. Bestseller

The horrendous events after the grounding of the ship Batavia are described in the journal of François Pelsaert. It became very popular and was published in 1647. The story is still captivating: the bestseller Batavia’s Graveyard was published by Mike Dash in 2005. Ongeluckige voyagie van ‘t schip Batavia, … François Pelsaert, Amsterdam, 1647 On loan from UvA Erfgoed, Amsterdam

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184. Praying for a safe passage

Gales, mutiny, lack of food and water and shipwreck; VOC ships had to defy numerous dangers on their voyages. The relief was huge when a large obstacle had been passed safely. To reflect on a safe passage of a perilous part of the route, a prayer was included in the instructions for lay chaplains and ministers. The prayer also begged

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185. Keep your eyes open

It was already well known in 1619 that the reefs of the coast of Australia were extraordinarily perilous. Frederik Houtman could see them from his ship Dordrecht. The name ‘Houtman Abrolhos’ for this part of the coast speaks volumes. ‘Abrolhos’ is a Portuguese word literally meaning ‘keep your eyes open’. In other words: watch out! However, these were exactly the

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