Deshima, or ‘Dejima’ in modern Japanese, was a fan-shaped little island lying in the harbour of Nagasaki. Not much bigger than De Dam, Amsterdam’s central square, Deshima functioned as the Dutch trading post in Japan from 1641 to 1859. The Dutch lived there under strict prohibitions. Only very rarely were they allowed to leave the island, such as for instance travelling to Edo (now Tokyo) once a year for an audience with the shogun.
For the Shogun in Edo, this trading post of the Dutch East India Company was the only contact with the Western world. The Dutch mini enclave is therefore of great historical importance. Through their contact with the Dutch, the Japanese kept abreast of the latest developments in Western technology and surgery. That contact laid the foundation for the modernisation of Japan, which only got its start in the second half of the 19th century, when the Shogunate lost power and the country opened itself to the world after centuries of isolation.
Deshima’s historical location no longer is in the sea; it has been enclosed by land reclamation and is now surrounded by the built area of Nagasaki. In 1922, Deshima was officially recognised as national heritage. Over the past decades, parts of the trading post have been restored to their former glory and thrown open to the public.
In 2016, the restoration of Deshima will enter a new phase. Six buildings from the early 19th century, situated on the main street of the settlement, will have been completed, thus replicating the streetscape of that period. In 2017, work will be finished on the Omote-mon-bashi, the only bridge that connected the island with the mainland of Nagasaki, and Japan with the Western world.
Website: Nagasaki Dejima