Ukiyo-e, Nagasaki-e & Yokohama-e:
The Foreign depicted in woodblock prints
Nagasaki-e prints were made starting from 1720, until the end of Sakoku, the isolation policy of Japan, which also marked the end of the Edo period. The Nagasaki-e prints are a genre within the Ukiyo-e, woodblock prints, and were souvenirs on paper, mostly produced and sold in Nagasaki. Earlier images of Portuguese or Dutch are known but weren’t created en masse on an industrial scale. Later, after the end of Japanese isolation, the focal point of printing became the mundane port-city Yokohama, resulting in Yokohama-e prints. We have an extensive collection of Ukiyo-e, Nagasaki-e and Yokohama-e prints for sale.
In this 'EXPLAINED', we focus on the depiction of foreigners in woodblock print:
Naggasaki-e, Yokohama-e, Ukiyo-e prints for sale
A Japanese colour woodblock print, Öban tate-e by Utagawa Yoshiharu (1828-1888), ‘The Great French Soullier Circus and Equestrian Acrobatic Show’
Circa 1871, published by Kagaya Kichibei
H. 36.5 x W. 73.5 cm
The famous Soullier Circus came to Japan in 1871 and performed in both Yokohama and Tokyo. This woodcut triptych was published as a wonderful poster advertising performance in January of the following year. The troupe was famous for its equestrian acts that included daredevil riding stunts, aerial acrobatics and other remarkable feats carried out with incredible precision by highly trained Circassian and English horses.
Another copy of this poster is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (inv. no. 1968-165-24a-c).
A woodblock print by Yoshikazu, titled ‘Picture of the Landing of Foreigners of the Five Nations in Yokohama’, Gokakoku ijin Yokohama jõriku no zu
Published by Enshũya Hikobei, 1861
Oban triptych, H. 35.5 x W. 72.5 cm
Along the Yokohama waterfront, known to the Western residents as the Bund, are depicted soldiers and civilians of the five treaty nations. Each country is marked with a flag and a label identifying the country in Japanese. In the foreground two Chinese, whose presence as compradors was vital to commerce in Yokohama.
Yoshikazu’s print is one of the first to depict military troops of the Five Nations in Yokohama. This scene is clearly an imaginative fabrication since mutual suspicion and competitive interests would have prevented a friendly assembly of military units from the Western treaty nations to have taken place in Yokohama in 1861.
A Japanese colour woodblock print, makimono, titled ‘Marching of the red- haired’
H. 27.5 x W. 39.5 cm
During the Japanese policy of seclusion (sakoku) between 1641 and 1859, of the Western powers, only the Dutch were allowed to trade in Japan, but under very strict limitations; they were not allowed to leave their small trade post on Deshima Island without permission, no Dutch women, no overt practising of Christianity and no Dutch military were permitted in Japan.
However, the outcome of the Opium War (1840-1842) which forced the Chinese Empire to open some of its ports to Western trade, led to much concern in Japan and a short break from the prohibition of the presence of Dutch military in Japan. Against the background of the events in China and on the grounds of the long-standing relationships between The Netherlands and Japan, King William II on the advice of the minister of Colonies, J.C. Baud, wrote a letter to the Shogun in friendly, but urgent terms advising him to end the sakoku policy or Japan could await a similar fate as China. In the royal letter, signed on 15 February 1844, William II stated that peace for Japan could only be secured by allowing friendly trade relationships with foreign countries.
The delivery of the royal letter to the Shogun through the intermediary of the governor of Nagasaki was prepared with the greatest consideration. The specialist on Japan and former physician of Deshima, Philipp Franz von Siebold, pointed out that protocol should
be strictly observed and a military delegation for the presentation of the letter would be necessary. A military person would have more status in the eyes of the Japanese than a civil servant such as the Opperhoofd of Deshima. It was decided to charge the naval commander H.H.F. Coops with the task. As commander of the war frigate H.M.S. Palembang, Coops arrived in Nagasaki with the important letter in August 1844.
The presentation of the letter to the governor of Nagasaki who would deliver it to the Shogun in Edo, was carried out with great ceremony by a procession of about 120 Dutch marines marching to the residence of the governor of Nagasaki. In the front of the procession are the drummers and trumpeters, followed by the marines, one carrying the Dutch flag and another something looking like a potted plant which should have been the letter in a box. The Japanese printmaker apparently did not understand the purpose of the procession; not a potted plant but a boxed letter was to be delivered. At the end of the procession, three chairs are being carried for three Dutch officials; the Dutch found it difficult to sit on the floor like the Japanese do, which made the Japanese think the Dutch were unable to bend their knees.
The reply of the Shogun to the letter of King William II followed more than a year later. He highly appreciated the frank advice of the king but in friendly terms made it clear that Japan had to adhere to its old rules of seclusion and therefore would remain closed (until Commodore Perry forced it to open ten years later).
A Japanese Nagasaki-e colour woodblock print, ‘depiction of Russians,’ woro hiyajin no zu
Edo period, circa 1854, editor Bunkindõ
H. 46 cm x W. 16 cm
The subject of this print is Vice Admiral Yevfimity Vasilyvich Putyatin (1803-1883) with a standard-bearer standing behind him. Putyatin led a Russian diplomatic effort to open trade with Japan. He arrived in Nagasaki in August 1853, just one month after Commodore Perry’s first visit to Japan on behalf of the United States. Putyatin’s first visit wasn’t successful.
He returned to Nagasaki in October 1854, but because no progress was made, he decided to sail to Edo. In November he arrived
in the port of Shimoda, which had just been opened to the Americans by the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854. In February 1855 the Treaty of Shimoda
was concluded with Russia, which opened the Japanese ports of Hakodate, Nagasaki, and Shimoda to Russian vessels as well. The Russians in fact were little interested in trade, but mainly in having a military presence.
A Japanese, Ukiyo-e, colour woodblock print of an American man and a Japanese woman
Early Meiji period, circa 1870
H. 33 x W. 22.3 cm
The Japanese text reads: “Culture of a foreign country, South America. The continent was originally developed by European persons. When south and north continents are combined, it is as large as half the world. The north continent reaches to New England, and its south area is called Mexico. The east and west coast face two oceans, respectively. The country is democratic, and their people are gentle and kind. They make their country rich by regular travels to foreign countries for trade.”
A Japanese colour woodblock print, Nagasaki-e, titled oranda nyonin zu, Dutch woman walking with a child
No publisher mentioned, circa 1817
H. 36.2 x W. 16 cm
The Dutch woman is Titia Bergsma, Opperhoofd
Jan Cock Blomhof’s wife, walking with her young son Johannes. In mid-August 1817 Jan Cock Blomhoff arrived in Japan, together with his wife, son and the Dutch wetnurse Petronella, to take over as Opperhoofd the management of the Dutch settlement on Deshima island from Hendrik Doeff. However, foreign women were not allowed into Japan under the sakoku policy of total isolation proclaimed by the shogunate. So the Dutch women and the child had to leave the country on the same ship on which they had arrived four months earlier. These four months were long enough for the painter Kawahara Keiga and publishers of prints in Nagasaki to make many illustrations of the first red hair, blue eye, and barbaric females to be seen in Japan.
An anonymous Japanese, Kawaraban, illustration of a Dutch ship, Ransen no zu
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.
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).
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.
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).
A Japanese world map woodblock print, Sekai bankoku Nihon yori kaijo risu ojo jimbutsu (Pictorial map of distances from Japan, the names of many lands and their people)
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.
A Japanese woodblock print, Nagasaki-e, of Nagasaki Harbour, Shinkan Nagasaki no dzu
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”.
A Japanese colour woodblock print, Nagasaki-e, depicting a Dutchman
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.
A Japanese colour woodblock print, Nagasaki-e, depicting a Dutch East Indian Ship, Oranda sen no zu, entitled 'Son, Maan, Sterre'.
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.
Yoshitsuya Utagawa (1822-1866)
A Japanese colour woodblock print, Yokohama-e, 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).
Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)
A Japanese colour woodblock print, Nagasaki-e, 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.
A Japanese woodblock print, Nagasaki-e, depicting Drunk Dutchmen
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’.
Hishu Nagasaki Dzu, a Japanese, Nagasaki-e, woodblock print of Nagasaki harbour
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.
A Japanese, Nagasaki-e, woodblock print depicting a Hollandsch Groot Schip (Large Dutch Ship)
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
A Japanese, Nagasaki-e, woodblock print of the Dutch settlement at Deshima (Deshima Oranda Yashiki Kei)
By 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.