Dejima and Nagasaki

Interpreters and the Dutch officials

Interpreters played an important part in bridging the language gap between the Japanese people and the Dutch officials and also in the trade activities. Interpreters existed during the period of the Hirado Dutch Trading Post; however, the status of interpreters drastically changed along with the relocation of Dutch Trading Post to Dejima. Interpreters were officially recognized as Oranda Tsuji (Dutch Interpreters) and were incorporated as Japanese native officials of Nagasaki. Oranda Tsuji could be basically divided in 3 levels: the senior interpreters, the junior interpreters and the trainee interpreters. Their office was located on Dejima to work shifts or one or two people.

Dutch people who stayed in Dejima were employees of Dutch East India Company until the18th century. A total about 15 people including the Chief Factor and the Deputy Factor worked during the periods when there were no arrivals of Dutch ships in Nagasaki. The number of Chief Factors who worked on Dejima counted 163 between the first Chief Factor Jacques Specx and the last Jan Hendrik Donker Curtius. Their terms as Chief Director were usually one year, but there was one exceptional case in which Hendrik Doeff was engaged in his duty for 14 years.


Familiarization of Rangaku (Dutch Studies)

Rangaku; the abbreviation of Dutch Studies is the Western science brought by Dutch people and through Dutch books during the Edo period. In the beginning of the Edo period, studying Dutch was limited to the interpreters of Dejima, however, the lifting of the ban on Western books by the shogunate in 1720 allowed regular Japanese people to study Dutch. Later, studying Dutch was popularized to Japanese people.

A total of 150 resident physicians were dispatched to Dejima since the first physician Henselingh. Seeing as it was difficult to enter Dejima to learn Dutch Studies, Japanese people who gathered in Nagasaki to study, first lodged at the interpreters house such as Yoshio Juku or Yurin Juku(a private academy opened by the famous interpreter). First they were to be given the instructions and later they were able to enter Dejima to observe the medication by the Dutch resident physicians at the surgery room if they would have an opportunity.

Under this situation, von Siebold, who arrived in Japan in 1823, received permission for the establishment of his private school for medical education. Opening Narutaki Juku, von Siebold gave lectures to the students who gathered from all over Japan while he also treated Japanese patients and conducted research on the natural history and folklore of Japan, resulting in remarkable accomplishment in the developments of Dutch Studies in Japan.

Dejima left waiting for the arrival of Dutch ships

Because the Netherlands was annexed by France in 1810 and in 1811 Batavia was occupied by England, not a single Dutch ship arrived in Dejima for 3 years. During this period, food and daily goods were provided by the Tokugawa shogunate for free. Also, the Nagasaki magistrate’s office sent messengers twice or three times every week to check on their necessaries. Despite the fact that the other expenditures were covered by payment of the Nagasaki Trading Association, the total amount of the debt reached over 80 thousand and 200 ryo. One of the records revealed that Dutch India Company was under such a financial crisis that the Tokugawa Shogunate purchased the book “CHOMEL Home Encyclopedia” which belonged to the Chief Factor, for 600 ryo.

Later, in 1815, the Netherlands was established. For 5 years between 1810 and 1815, Dejima was the only place on earth where the Dutch flag was still flying.