Member: Nagasaki City Dejima Restoration Office
The Dutch Trading Post on Dejima
Unifying the country in 1603, Tokugawa Shogunate implemented a policy to take control of the trade between Japan and the foreign countries. It ordered the construction of a manmade island with water on all four sides at the tip of the cape of Nagasaki harbor in 1634 to segregate Portuguese people who already conducted the trade in Japan. A bridge was built to this fan-shaped artificial island later named “Dejima” and the gate was strictly guarded. However, a few years later from the completion of Dejima in 1636, Tokugawa Shogunate expelled Portuguese from Japan in fear of the spread of Christianity by Portuguese. The new inhabitants of the empty island were Dutch people who had their trading post in Hirado. The trading post was moved to Dejima, Nagasaki from Hirado in 1641 since then the Netherlands was the only European country that could trade with Japan for 218 years.
Trading in Nagasaki
The main merchandise imported to Nagasaki was raw silk from China, Tonkin and Bengal in the early Edo Period (17th century). From the mid-Edo Period (18th century), sugar production in Batavia increased and replaced silk as the main import item. Other imported merchandise included fabrics such as wool from Europe, cotton cloth from India and Southeast Asia, aromatics and sappanwood, which was used as a dye.
Silver and gold were the primary export item from Nagasaki in the early Edo Period then copper later replaced them as the main export item. The copper exported from Japan was sold in regions where demand was high, such as Coromandel in India, Bengal, Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka) where it was transformed into coins, as well as household and building ornaments. Other export items included porcelain produced in Arita called “Imari-yaki” that replaced Chinese porcelain, whose distribution was periodically halted. Specially ordered porcelain inscribed with the VOC emblem, and porcelain that was not used in Japan at the time were specifically produced for export.
Dejima, which was once an island, is now surrounded by buildings due to city reclamation work. For the past few decades Nagasaki City has been restoring Dejima as it appeared in the early 19th century. Sixteen of the buildings have been restored on Dejima which has been designated as a national historical site. These buildings were restored based on historical materials such as the excavated remains, old photographs, various illustrations of Dejima and a miniature model which has survived in the Netherlands. Inside the restored buildings, displays include the excavated materials, various videos about Dejima as well as reproduced scenes that display scenes from the life of the Dutch officials on Dejima. In 2017 the new main gate bridge was constructed which allows visitors to cross the main bridge just as people used to do during the VOC-period.