Dejima Village

Discovering Dejima Island (Part 2 of 2)

The actual artificial island of Dejima was constructed in 1634 by shogun Iemitsu. The island was built to accommodate the Portuguese traders living in Nagasaki and prevent the spread of their religion, Christianity. This was one of the edicts promulgated by Iemitsu between 1633 and 1639 limiting contact between japan and other countries. Many Japanese Christians predominantly from the Shimabara-Amakusa region, rebelled against the restrictions imposed by the Japanese government against them.

This resulted in the Shimabara Rebellion (December 17, 1637 – April 15, 1638). It was an uprising of Japanese Roman Catholics from the region that practically ended the Christian movement in the 17th-century in Japan. It also strengthened the Japanese government’s determination to isolate Japan from foreign influences. The Tokugawa government also decided to completely expel the Portuguese from Japan in 1639.

Miniature Dejima village

Miniature Dejima village.

The Dutch East India Company moves to Dejima

Meanwhile, the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie; VOC) had been running a trading on the island of Hirado. With the ban on the Portuguese, the Dutch employees of the VOC became the only Westerners with trade access to Japan.

For 33 years the Dutch were granted permission to trade relatively freely in the country.The Hirado trading post had Christian-era stonework on the warehouses and in 1640, this was used as a pretext to demolish the buildings and relocate the trading post to Nagasaki. With the Portuguese gone, along with the annual trading ships from Macau, Dejima island became a failed commercial post. The economy of Nagasaki suffered a tremendous loss. Another reason why the Japanese government moved the Dutch to Dejima island. From 1641 onwards, only Dutch and Chinese ships were allowed to come to Japan and only through the Nagasaki harbor as an entry port.

The end of the sakoku years

Dejima was abolished after the Treaty of Kanagawa (“Japan and US Treaty of Peace and Amity”). It was the first treaty between the United States and the Tokugawa shogunate. It effectively meant the end of the 220-year old policy of national seclusion, or the sakoku years. Japan agreed to open the ports of Shimoda and hakodate to American vessels. It also ensured the safety of American castaways and established the position of an American consul in Japan.

The Treaty of Kanagawa was a prelude to the signing of other treaties establishing diplomatic relations with other Western powers. Dejima island was later on integrated into Nagasaki city through land reclamation. In 1922, the “Dejima Dutch Trading Post” was designated a Japanese national historic site.  Many of Dejima island’s historical structures remain intact or have been reconstructed including the various residences, warehouses, gates and walls. Dejima island is a wonderful place to visit in discovering the history of Japan.

Check out Dejima on the video: