• Dickie Zebregs

Auspicious Dutchies: the History of the Netherlands in Japan

­After the discovery of Japan by Europeans in about 1542, when the Portuguese Fernandez Mendez Pinto was driven thither by storms aboard a Chinese junk ship and landed in Kinshiu, his travel-partner Zaimoto educated the Japanese, most notably about firearms and gunpowder. In these early times of connection with the outside world, the inhabitants of the archipelago were kind to foreigners and very curious. As discussed in our Explained ‘Namban: Art for the Barbarians’, the Portuguese were able to mission on Japan and convert some Japanese to Christianity and were even able to trade with the Japanese and produce early Namban lacquerwares. Of the opening thus made for commerce, the Dutch were first to take advantage and monopolized the trade with Japan. During this period, European pictorial traditions were introduced and the influence in Japanese art became more prominent. One of the earliest examples can be seen in an inro from the collection of Mrs Dobson (depicted in: Marcus B. Huish, L.L.B., Japan and its Art, Alpha Editions, 2017), where the artist clearly created a motif derived from Dutch leather paper, which found favour and was copied more, as can be seen in a pipe-case from our collection. The Dutch started the trade with Japan from as early as 1610, even when the archipelago closed its ports and borders to foreign traders and was isolated, and were able to do so, restricted