Ukiyo-e, Nagasaki-e & Yokohama-e.
Japanese Western woodblock prints 

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An anonymous Japanese, Kawaraban, illustration of a Dutch ship, Ransen no zu


Circa 1854

The text upper right indicates distances from Nagasaki to such places as Nanjing, Korea, Holland, Java, New Holland (Australia), England and North America. The text upper left reads: “Capacity of loading 30500 kin (18.3 mt); forty-five ken in L. (81 m); twelve ken in W. (22 m); four masts; nine sails; two breech-loading guns, sekkaya; thirty-six large guns.”

H. 30.5 x W. 41.5 cm

At the beginning of the 17th century Japanese newspapers, known as yomiuri (literally “to read and sell”) or kawaraban (literally “tile-block printing” referring to the use of clay printing blocks), were printed handbills sold in major cities to commemorate major social gatherings or events such as natural disasters, religious happenings, murders, and less commonly, political satire. Throughout the Edo period the Shogunate repeatedly restricted printing for mass audiences, particularly seeking to avoid political commentary. Therefore, these sheets were often printed anonymously. By the time the ‘Black Ships’ (i.e., Perry’s fleet) arrived, at the end of the Edo period,

the system of censorship could no longer keep up with the large number of prints in circulation. The kawaraban publishers served as a crucial vector for the transmission of information about Commodore Mathew Perry’s opening of Japan. That time was characterized by great social upheaval, and intense public interest in the agents of the outside world arriving in Japan. Depictions of Perry’s Black Ship, as on the folding- screen, are based on kawaraban prints like the present one. The present kawaraban print is a very early one. It is still titled Ransen no zu (Dutch ship), although it rather depicts a Ikokusen no zu (foreign ship) but does not yet show a coal-burning paddle-wheel ship with which Commodore Perry arrived in Japan, as depicted in many slightly later kawaraban prints.

Japan prent Hollander en Duitser.jpg

A Japanese colour woodblock print, Yokohama-e, by Yokokawa Chyokoku

Early Meiji period, circa 1870, published by Ryogoku Taihei Ban

H. 32.2 x W. 23.4 cm

The Japanese text reads:

“Dutch person carefully signing contract paper in merchant’s house at Yokohama.”

The figures that are shown are to the right an, Oranda-Jin (Dutchman in Japan) and to the left a Doissuland-Jin (German in Japan).

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A Japanese colour woodblock print, Nagaski-e, titled Oranda fujin no zu (Dutch ladies)

With publishers mark, Yamtoya, designed by Isono Bunsai, probably after a painting by Kawahara Keiga made in 1817

H. 35.6 x W. 3.5 cm (slightly reduced in width)

Depicted are, Titia, the wife of Opperhoofd of Deshima, Jan Cock Blomhoff, and the nurse Petronella Munts holding the child Johannes in her arms.

In 1639 the third Tokugawa Shogun, Iemitsu (reigned 1623-1651), proclaimed a policy of total isolation, sakoku. This policy implied that no foreign women were permitted to stay on the small island of Deshima where the Dutch traders in Japan were restricted to. The strict regulations concerning the access to Deshima by women explicitly stipulated that only prostitute from the Maruyama quarters in Nagasaki were permitted to stay on the island. These ‘openbare juffers’ (public damsels) enjoyed the special privilege of being allowed to stay on the island at night. Before long, they became familiar with European customs and these Oranda-yuki, ‘women that go to the Dutch’, were an important source of information on the lifestyle of the Dutch on Deshima. They receive little attention in the art of the Nagasaki prints, except in the now very rare erotic prints, shunga (see for examples Zebregs&Röell, Kawahara Keiga, Studio Paintings, Maastricht, June 2020). It was after all the exotic Dutch that were the subject of Nagasaki-e prints.

In July 1817, the Japanese were able to behold Dutch women in the flesh for the first time. In that year, Jan Cock Blomhoff took over the management of the Dutch settlement from Hendrik Doeff. To the great consternation of the Japanese authorities, he came to Deshima in the company of his wife Titia, their sick little son Johannes, and the Dutch nurse Petronella Munts. However, the women and the child had to return with the same ship that would sail back to Batavia (Jakarta) in autumn. Mrs. Cock Blomhoff and her company stayed for five months on Deshima, long enough for artists, like Kawahara Keiga, and publishers of Nagasaki prints to throw themselves onto the task of illustrating the red hair, blue eye, barbaric females. The newly arrived Dutch women were carefully observed. In the present colour woodblock print, after a design by Kawahara Keiga, much attention is given to the correct rendering of the clothing of both women. Titia’s five months stay in Japan might never have been preserved for history hadn’t she been the first western women in Japan, provoking much artistic activity by Japanese artists into reproducing Titia’s image in painting, woodblock prints, woodcarvings, and clay.

prent Nuyts.jpg

A Japanese woodblock print, Ukiyo-e, depicting the capture of Pieter Nuyts

Meiji period, late 19th century

H. 36.5 x W. 49 cm

The print depicts the capture of the Dutch governor of Formosa (Taiwan), Pieter Nuyts, his son Laurens, and some other Dutchmen, by Hamada-Yahyoe and other Japanese sea captains in 1628.

The Japanese texts read:

‘Title of the picture: Story telling about the Hamada-Yahyoe Incident with it’s poem.’

‘Sizes of original picture: 114 x 159 cm.’
‘Original painter: Sato-Masaki (1809-1857).’
‘Original poet: Nonokuchi-Masataka (1793-1871).’
‘Engraver after the original: Hiratsuka-Kunso, and poet Kabe-Iwao (1849-1922).’

Pieter Nuyts was born in 1598 in Middelburg from wealthy protestant immigrants from Antwerp. After his study of philosophy in Leiden, he returned to Middelburg to work in his father’s trading company. In 1620 Pieter married Cornelia Jacot, also a child of Antwerp émigrés. Together they had four children, Laurens in 1622, Pieter in1624 and the twins Anna Cornelia and Elisabeth in 1626. In 1626 Pieter entered service with the VOC and was seen as one of its rising stars. On 11 May 1626, Pieter and his eldest son Laurens (only 4 years old) sailed from Amsterdam on the VOC ship ‘t Gulden Zeepaert. Deviating from the standard route to Batavia (Jakarta) the ship continued east to map the southern coast of Australia. The ship’s captain François Thijssen, named the region ‘t Landt van Pieter Nuyts, after Nuyts who was the highest-ranking official onboard. Today several areas in South Australia still bear his names, such as Nuyts Reef, Cape Nuyts and Nuyts Archipelago.

On May 1627, just one month after completing his Australian voyage, Nuyts was simultaneously appointed governor of Formosa, present-day Taiwan, and ambassador to Japan. In this last capacity, he made the court journey to the Shõgun, Takugawa Iemitsu. At the same time Hamada Yahyoe, a Japanese trader based in Nagasaki with frequent business in Formosa, where he already had some collisions with Nuyts, had taken a group of native Formosans to Japan, posing them as the rulers of Formosa. His plan was to have the Formosans grant sovereignty over Formosa to the Shõgun. At the same time, Nuyts was in Japan to assert the Dutch claim on the island. Both embassies were refused an audience with the Shõgun. The Dutch failure being variously attributed to Nuyts “haughty demeanour and the antics of his travel companions,” and to “Hamada’s machinations at the court.”

On returning from his unsuccessful mission to Japan, Nuyts took up his position as the third governor of Formosa, with his residence in Fort Zeelandia. One of his first aims was to force an opening for the Dutch to trade with China, something which had eluded the Dutch since they arrived in East Asia in the early 17th century. To further this goal, he took hostage Zheng Zhiling, merchant, pirate, military leader, and interpreter in the peace negotiations between the Dutch and Ming China over the Pescadores Islands, occupied by the Dutch. Nuyts refused to release him until Zheng agreed to give the Dutch trading privileges. Not the best way to make friends and thirty years later it was Zheng’s son, Koxinga, who would end the Dutch reign in Formosa.

Nuyts also succeeded in making enemies in Formosa by treating the natives with arrogance. In 1629 he narrowly escaped death when after being feted at the native village of Mattau, the locals took advantage of the relaxed and convivial atmosphere to slaughter sixty off-guard Dutch soldiers. Nuyts was spared by having left early to return to fort Zeelandia. Later the Dutch would take revenge by massacring the village of Mattau.

The already troubled relations with Japanese merchants in Formosa took a turn for the worse in 1628. The Japanese, who had been trading in Formosa long before the arrival of the Dutch, refused to pay Dutch tolls levied for conducting business in the area. Nuyts exacted revenge on the same Hamada Yahei who he blamed for causing the failure of the Japanese embassy by impounding his ships until the tolls were paid. However, the Japanese still refused to pay taxes and instead Hamada took Nuyts hostage at knife point in his own office (as illustrated in the present print), demanding the return of his ships and safe passage to Japan. This was granted by the Council of Formosa, and as a security six Dutchmen, including Nuyts’ son Laurens, were taken to Japan as hostages. Laurens died in Omura prison on 29 December 1631. During the later Japanese occupation of Taiwan, 1895 till 1945, school history books retold the hostage taking as the Nuyts-incident (noitsu jiken), portraying the Dutchman as a “typical arrogant western bully who slighted Japanese trading rights and trod on the rights of the native inhabitants (sic).”

The Dutch were very keen to resume the lucrative trade with Japan which had been choked off in the wake of the dispute between Nuyts and Hamada. All their overtures to the Japanese court failed, until they decided to extradite Nuyts to Japan for the Shõgun to punish him as he saw fit. This shows the relative weakness of the Dutch when confronted by powerful Eastern Asian states such as Japan. Nuyts was held under house arrest by the Japanese from 1632 until 1636, when he was sent back to Batavia (Jakarta), where he was fined, dishonourably dismissed, and sent back to the Netherlands by the VOC. Thanks to powerful allies in the Middelburg Chamber of the VOC Nuyts successfully reclaimed the fines placed on him and started a career as local administrator and mayor of the town of Hulst. He died on 11 December 1655. For more reading on this subject see: Leonard Blussé (2003), Bull in a China Shop: Pieter Nuyts in China and Japan (1627-1636).

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Unknown author and publisher, late Edo period, 1800-1850.


Colour woodblock print, 38.5 cm x 49.2 cm


A rare and beautiful primitive-style Japanese world map with portraits of foreign people including North American, South American, Dutch, Indian, Chinese and Korean. Other figures represent fictional lands such as a country populated only by women, and folklore-inspired depictions of a giant, a cyclops and a lilliput.

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Published by Baikodo and dated 1st year of Kyowa (1801)

Black and blue ink on paper, 34 cm x 55 cm


To the right Japanese texts are added. The top line is the title, reading; “distances to main places from Nagasaki”.
Upper part from right to left: Kyoto 210ri, Edo 332ri, Osaka 197ri, Shimonosek 59ri,Bungo Hita 46ri, Higo-Kumamoto 39ri, Satsuma-Kagoshima 65ri, Hiuga-Satohara 71ri. Lower part: Hizen-Saga 29ri, Chikuzen-Fukuoka 50ri, Hirado 32ri, Karatsu 32ri, Kurume 36ri, Yanagawa 32ri, Shimabara 16ri and Omura 10ri. 1ri = 4km.

Underneath in the blue field is written: “New map of Nagasaki”.

Prent Hollander met verrekijker.jpg


Edo period, early 19th century

The standing Dutchman looking through a telescope and a dog at his feet.

H. 44.5 cm x W. 15 cm


The Dutchman most likely is Jan Cock Blomhoff, Opperhoofd in Deshima from 1809 till 1813 and again from 1817 till 1824. In a circle on his hat are written the initials AH or AP upside-down, the meaning of which is unclear.

Son Maan Sterren.jpg


Edo period, the original print is probably circa 1782, the present edition is a later smaller copy, perhaps taken from a book

H. 17.5 x W. 15 cm

Above the Dutch words, Son Maan Sterre are the Sino-Japanese equivalents of these words. In the top right-hand corner is a description of the ship, its dimensions and details concerning its equipment and crew. On the top left side is a table of distances in ri from Japan to some nine European and Asian countries including Holland, England, Portugal, Madagascar, Sumatra and Batavia.

Prent Willem III.jpg


A Japanese colour woodblock print, Yokohama-é, depicting a caricature King William III

Published by Ebiya Rinnosuke, circa 1860

This print is from a series of portraits of people of Barbarian Nations, Bankoku jimbutsu zue, added is a satirical poem by Kanasaki Robun (1829-1894): “Even people writing sideways (writing like the movement of a crab) are desirous of the lofty principles of our nation”.

H. 35.6 x W. 24.2 cm


In 1855 King William III of the Netherlands had sent Count Jan Maurits van Lynden to Japan to present the King’s life-size portrait, painted by N. Pieneman, to the Shogun. Together with the

picture the, not so well functioning paddle steamship Soembing was presented by the Dutch to the Japanese; this was the start of the modern Japanese navy (for more information on the Soembing see, Uit Verre Streken June 2019, 50).

Nagasaki Hotel.jpg



A Japanese colour woodblock print, Nagasaki-é, depicting Nagasaki-ya (Nagasaki hotel)

A page from volume 1 of the Ehon Azuma Asobi (Pleasures of the Eastern Capital), designed by Katsushika Hokusai (1760- 1849) and published in Edo in 1802

H. 19.8 cm x W. 15.1 cm


During the Tokugawa dynasty, not only the Japanese feudal lords (daimyô) but also the Dutch were obliged to travel annually to the court in Edo (Edo sanpu) in order to prove their loyalty to the shôgun and of course to present gifts. During their stay in Edo, the Dutch were accommodated in the “Nagasaki hotel” where the red-heads were gaped at during the day by inquisitive passers-by. After sunset, they were secretly visited by Japanese intellectuals and scientists who until late in the night availed themselves of the opportunity to expand their knowledge on western sciences. Scientists like von Siebold, who had taken part in the court journey in 1826, was among those who contributed a great deal to this knowledge of the Japanese.

Prent vrolijke Hollanders.jpg


Early 19th century

Inscribed, Afteeken van vrolijkhijd der Hollanders

H. 22.4 cm x W. 29.5 cm


The Japanese text reads ‘scenery of Dutchmen enjoying a pleasant time’.

Schermafbeelding 2020-04-22 om 19.28.54.
Schermafbeelding 2020-04-22 om 19.28.41.


Published by Bunkindõ han and dated 2nd year of Kyowa (1802)

H. 61.2 x W. 86.9 cm


The map shows Deshima Island with the Dutch trading post and under it the island where the Chinese had their trading post in the harbour of Nagasaki. In the text are mentioned the distances from Nagasaki to various places in Japan, such as Kyoto, Osaka and Edo over land and by sea.

Schermafbeelding 2020-04-22 om 19.31.19.
Schermafbeelding 2020-04-22 om 19.31.31.


Published by Bunsai Han, Nagasaki, early 19th century

15.5 x 43 cm



The two Dutch ships greet each other with gunfire. The characteristics of the ship, with special mention of red and white banners going up in one movement, are described in the text on the right

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Toshimaya Bunjiuemon, Nagasaki, 1780

A later impression.

43.5 x 60.8 cm


Sieboldhuis, Japanmuseum in Leiden, Netsuke, Dutchmen in miniature from the Coen Hille collection, 1 March - 2 June 2013


The Toshimaya family came from Edo and established a trading firm in Nagasaki. In the generation of Bunjiuemon, the firm began to publish Nagasaki prints and in 1780 it printed this map of Deshima. Bunjiuemon’s son Denkichi flourished in the publishing business and changed the name of the firm from Toshimaya to Tomishimaya before his death in 1797. This is a rare Tomishimaya print of Deshima.