出島 - the Dutch and the Japanese

In case you don’t know, I am half Dutch. That will set the scene for this post!

I heard from my uncle that a relative was buried on an island called Dejima. I didn’t really know much about the island, or why they would be buried there, until I read more about the history of the relationship between the Dutch and the Japanese. From 1641 to 1853, Japan basically closed it’s doors to the rest of the world (it could be argued that this explains quite a lot, but that’s another story!), except to the Dutch, who were permitted to base themselves on a small artificial island off the coast of Nagasaki.

Rather than go into more details of this period, I will simply point you to the Wikipedia entry on the subject.

I emailed my uncle yesterday to find out some more information, and this is what he replied with:

“It is one of our [by “our” I assume he means himself and my mum] great grand mothers. She is called Gerlach Fischer as far as I know… there are only three Europeans so you cannot miss her.

One of our great grandfathers was an independent shipowner (three mast) and traded with Japan. As Japan was closed for foreigners, trade only took place before the coast and Dejima was the center. Grandmother was expecting a baby and was taken of the ship. As it was bad weather she fell ill (pneumonia) and she and, I think, the child died.”

So I am trying to figure out a way to get down there – possibly after Kyoto in my whirlwind sightseeing trip – to find out more and get some pictures. We have a Dutch lady in class (she is too old to be called a “girl” ;) who said that it is some kind of anniversary related to the Holland/Japan relationship, which would explain why there are lots of Dutch art exhibitions on at the moment.

Exciting stuff!

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Ilona Prynne says:

    I seem to remember you enjoying Cloud Atlas, in which case you may be interested to know that the new David Mitchell novel (still being written) is about Dejima island.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *