Dutch-Japanese relations


One fine June afternoon in 1598,  five ships in Rotterdam ready their departure for a long journey. The crew have been told that their destination will be the Moluccas to buy spices, and to explore the "Silver-rycke" (the Silver Empire) of Japan. But once out on the high seas, the sailors of the five vessels, which are heavily loaded with weaponry, are informed of their additional tasks - to raid and plunder Portuguese and Spanish strongholds along the route in South America and Asia and to wreak damage on their enemies, understandable objectives in those turbulent times.

The journey proved a historic one. The first Dutch ship ever to arrive in Japan was the "Liefde " ("Charity" or "Love"); it was one of the five that originally left Rotterdam on June 27, 1598, and the only one to arrive safely in Japan - on April 19, 1600. "T Gheloove "("Faith") had turned back for Rotterdam before entering the Straits of Magellan. The other three had been lost; the " Blijde Bootschap " ("Good Message") in fights with the Spaniards, " Trouwe" ("Faithfulness") to the Portuguese and "Hoope" (Hope) to storm.

On April 19, 1600, for the people living in Sashifu, in the Bungo area (nowadays Usuki in Oita Prefecture), the view out to sea was different from normal days, for a ship strangely shaped and rigged lay at anchor. While the initially friendly Japanese helped the completely exhausted Dutch crew (which included at least one Englishman), they succumbed to the very normal temptations of that period to take from the vessel whatever they could remove. The Liefde carried 19 canon, many rifles, fire-arrows and assorted weaponry. Of the originally 110 man crew only 24 had survived the journey. Among them were Jan Joosten van Lodensteyn, who would later be known as Yaesu-san, and the Englishman William Adams, who would be called Miura Anjin in later days. The figure-head of the Liefde, representing Dutch scholar and philosopher Erasmus, can still be seen at the National Museum in Tokyo.

The military ruler of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, showed great interest in the Dutch ship, especially in the firearms it was carrying. Everything was confiscated and Joosten and Adams were ordered to Osaka and then to Edo, the center of power (present-day Tokyo), to be interrogated through a Portuguese interpreter. Their replies luckily proved to the liking of Ieyasu and the survivors were compensated for the losses they suffered in Usuki. Some of them started careers as traders and married local women. Their valuable know-how and understanding of maps, navigation, shipbuilding and warfare made William Adams and Jan Joosten popular with the ruler. It brought them land, money and titles. 

Today's Tokyo boasts Anjin-dori (Anjin-street) and the Yaesu Exit of Tokyo station to remind us of the long distant role of these two sailor adventurers. One critically important consequence was that the Dutch received official permission to trade with Japan, though it was to be almost a decade before this started up in earnest. The first Dutch ships after the `Liefde` arrived in Hirado in 1609.

Tokugawa Ieyasu made use of the arrival of the Dutch for another reason. The ruler had just started his campaign against Christianity due to the over-enthusiastic proselytising of Portuguese Jesuits threatening his authority, and the knowledge of the "red haired barbarians", as the Dutch came to be called, would prove useful. The protestant Dutch, whose first objective was trade and not the propagation of the Christian faith, had arrived and established their credibility just in time. This is how the special relationship between Japan and the Netherlands began.


The Portuguese had first arrived in Japan in 1543, so contacts between Japan and the Netherlands were not the oldest and longest Japan had enjoyed with a western country. Contacts with Asian countries such as Korea, China and Taiwan naturally went back to much earlier times. However, during the `sakoku-jidai`, the so-called seclusion period, Holland and China were the only countries permitted to trade and have limited contacts with Japan. It was a status which actually lasted over two centuries, from 1641 to 1853, and as the only western country with such privileges, Holland held a very special position. It was the door through which knowledge on science and medicine, and products and armaments from the Netherlands and Europe were imported into Japan through the Dutch settlement on Deshima, the man-made fan-shaped island in the Bay of Nagasaki. Simultaneously the Dutch generated great wealth exporting Japanese products and knowledge to the west. For both sides, Deshima was more than just a window on a new world.


The Dutch received a permit to trade from Tokugawa Ieyasu, who in 1603 had bestowed upon himself the title of Shogun. In 1605, when some survivors of the `Liefde` arrived on a Japanese junk in Pattani in Thailand, this 'trade pass' was conveyed to Captain Matelieff - the uncle of Quaeckernaeck, one of the 'Liefde's' survivors. A short time before, in 1602, the Dutch had founded the East Indian Company (VOC), the idea behind this being to unite many smaller trading companies into the one powerful organisation which would make it easier to acquire vessels and dominate the trading world. The VOC can be seen as the world's first shareholder company. Besides trading, the Dutch government authorized the VOC to initiate contacts with foreign 'authorities'. A second trade permit received stated that the Dutch were to be allowed to trade in all Japanese ports and expressed the hope that many Dutch ships would do so. This document is today in the National Archives in the Hague. The Dutch were first able to comply with Tokugawa`s hopes in 1609, when two ships formed the first official Dutch VOC delegation to Japan. They arrived in Hirado and after presentation of an official letter from Maurits, Prince of Orange, the Dutch received official permission to open a trading post. This first trading post was founded by Jacques Specx on the island of Hirado on the north-west coast of Kyushu. Hirado was a convenient location for trade with Taiwan and China, but did not overly impress the Dutch because most wealthy merchants lived in nearby Nagasaki.

In the period 1600-1641, the Dutch could move around the country freely and enjoyed unrestricted contact with the Japanese. In Hirado they set up a foundry and built a well. They were impressed by the quality and competence of Japanese craftsmen, who were frequently hired by the Dutch. However, in the early period trade was not profitable due to the limited contacts with other VOC outposts. Furthermore, the Dutch had no trading centre in China and were thus not able to supply the Japanese with silk. This problem was addressed by piracy of heavily loaded Portuguese trading ships. The Portuguese understandably complained and the Japanese government responded by banning piracy in Japanese waters. The threats of interference caused the Shogun to gradually apply a stricter policy in contacts with foreigners, both the Southern Barbarians (Portuguese) and the Red-Haired Barbarians (Dutch). In 1614 Tokugawa Ieyasu issued a ban on Christianity and evicted missionaries and prominent Japanese Christians from Japan. This ban was strictly enforced and many Japanese Christians were martyred and had to flee or hide. In 1621 Japanese subjects were forbidden to leave the country and board foreign vessels without special passes, and soon afterwards all departures from the country were forbidden. In 1639 the children of foreign fathers and Japanese mothers were forced to leave and the daughter of Dutch head merchant Van Nijenroode of Hirado had to leave for Batavia, present day Jakarta in Indonesia. Such children were not allowed to have contact with the Japanese anymore - a ruling which led to tearful scenes when they had to be parted from their mothers. The Hirado City Museum displays a touching letter of the time written on kimono-silk, the so called Jagatara-bun by Koshioro. After 1657 the Japanese government relaxed the rules somewhat and family news ('onshin') was allowed. Cornelia van Nijenroode wrote `onshin` to her family in Hirado, which are still preserved in  Hirado.

To limit contacts of the Portuguese with the Japanese, the shogunate decided to build a special island for them. Its name was Deshima , and Portuguese resided here from 1636 to 1639, when they were forced out of the country on suspicion of support to the Christian rebels during the Shimabara revolt. The Dutch had unsuccessfully fought on the Shogun`s side, and had stressed several times that they could provide the Japanese with all the goods that the Portuguese had previously supplied. "Rain on the Portuguese means drizzles on the Dutch" was a Dutch saying of the time. With Deshima vacant, the shogunate found ways to restrict the freedom of movement of the Dutch. In 1640 they finally found a good reason to confine the Dutch to Deshima. Head merchant Francois Caron had two warehouses built of stone to prevent loss by fire - a common threat in those days. Below the roof arch, following European custom, the words `Anno 1640` were engraved to show the year of completion. Mentioning the Christian date proved an insensitive mistake. The Dutch had to tear the warehouses down and move to Deshima. The Shogun`s decree meant the Dutch left Hirado in 1641. From then on for more than 200 years Holland would be the only western country permitted to have contact with Japan and the Japanese.


Rehousing the Dutch trading post on Deshima had the unexpected effect of expanding the profile of the Dutch rather than restricting it. This fan shaped island in Nagasaki bay measured but 15,000 square meters (approximately 150,000 square feet), about the size of Dam Square in Amsterdam. It meant the Dutch became Japan's window on the world. Western sciences and products were introduced to the Japanese and contacts resulted in so-called `Rangaku` or Dutch Learning. The most famous teacher is Philip Franz von Siebold, of German origin, who taught many scholars about western science, medicine and other matters of cultural value. Many loan words from the Dutch entered the Japanese language; for instance "biiru" - the Japanese word for beer - was derived from the Dutch word "bier".

In the context of limited contacts between Japanese and foreigners, the Dutch had to live under strict rules. They could not leave without official permission and Deshima was prohibited for women. An exception was made for the public women of Murayama district, who were allowed to stay one night at a time on the island. Permission to leave the island was only granted for official visits to the governor or the Shogun, the so-called "Edo Sanpu" or court journey to Edo. So life was not ideal for the Dutch. Most of the time in a person's year was spent idle. Only the arrival of ships, mostly in the period August to October, was a busy time. The vessels had to be unloaded, cargoes unpacked, repacked, and traded. The ships had to be reloaded with Japanese goods for the rich merchant traders of the VOC. It was the time for stories and messages from home.

At this time government regulations made business less profitable than it had been at the end of the Hirado period, when free trading was allowed. Goods had to be sold at fixed prices decided upon in advance. Maximum prices for import and export goods were set, and goods which remained unsold had to be taken back. But in spite of all these regulations, the VOC still made profits and continued to trade mainly silk for gold, silver, copper and camphor. Also lacquerwork, porcelain and tea were bought and exported to Batavia or Europe.

Contrary to what one might conclude, Deshima was a popular posting among VOC employees. One reason for this was that the Japanese Government, beside the official trade, gave permission for limited personal trading as well, a privilege which provided employees with additional income sometimes reaching levels of more than 20 times their normal annual salary. The "opperhoofd", whose salary was 1200 guilders a year, was recorded as making as much as 30.000 guilders.

For political reasons, both in Japan and Europe, profits and trade on Deshima deteriorated in the 18th century. The Japanese authorities set out new regulations on such affairs as the numbers of ships permitted and the exchange rate between silver and gold - initiatives that restricted profits for the trading Dutch. This was the era of the French Revolution and the loss of the once mighty Dutch command of the seas. Between 1795 and 1813 few VOC vessels managed to reach Deshima as a result of which VOC employees lost income. Opperhoofd Hendrik Doeff became dependent on the kindness of the Japanese for food and clothing. But Doeff did not waste his time. He continued his writing of a Dutch-Japanese dictionary and invested special efforts in maintaining good relations with the Japanese authorities. Doeff kept the Dutch flag flying in Deshima: the only one left in the world.


In the 16th century the "lingua franca" of trading with the Japanese had been Portuguese, and first contacts between the Dutch and the Japanese were conducted through a Portuguese interpreter. After the Portuguese were expelled, the Dutch language gradually took over and the role of translator and interpreter became critically important. Positions were hereditary, with Japanese interpreters for the Dutch becoming known as "Oranda Tsuji". Rarely exceeding 150 in number they were in charge of the administration of trade, diplomacy and cultural exchanges. "Oranda Tsuji" played an important role in the propagation of the western sciences. As the competence of the interpreters improved, so it became clear to the Japanese ruling class that the westerners had exceptional, and valuable, knowledge in many fields.

In 1720, the eighth Shogun, Yoshimune, lifted the ban on western books, except for Christian religious literature, and shortly after scientific books began to be imported into Japan. Study through the Dutch language was called "Rangaku", or Dutch Learning, and scholars such as Sugita Genpaku achieved remarkable results. The "Ontleedkundige Tafelen" , a thorough work on anatomy by the German Kulmus, was translated in 1771-1774 as the "Kaitai Shinsho". About the difficulties of translating this work, Sugita Genpaku wrote the "Rangaku Kotohajime " (Beginnings of Dutch Learning). These two books became the basic study materials of many Rangaku schools in Japan. Of these schools the Narutaki Juku, established by Von Siebold in Nagasaki, Shirando in Edo by Otsuki Gentaku and Tekijuku, established by Ogata Koan in Osaka were the most famous. Beside medical science the subjects of astronomy, mathematics, botany, physics and chemistry, geography and military science were actively studied.

Providing the Japanese with information on western sciences proved an important task for the VOC and resulted in many academics being sent to Japan. Caspar Schambergen gave his name to the medical "Kasuparu-Ryu" or Caspar School. Hendrik Doeff edited the "Zufu Haruma", a Dutch-Japanese dictionary based on that of Francois Halma, and he also wrote Japanese poetry. Cock Blomhoff collected Japanese artifacts and household goods. The most famous "Dutch" intellectual export was generally considered to be Philip Franz von Siebold. The German Von Siebold was sent to Japan in 1823 with the mission to acquire as much information about Japan, the people and their culture as possible. Through his thorough knowledge of botany, medical sciences and pharmacy, he became the most revered VOC employee of his time in service of the Japanese and Dutch alike. He was given land near Nagasaki, where he founded the school Narutaki Juku. Here he treated patients, taught medical science and biology, and kept a botanical garden. Through his many contacts with scholars, patients and authorities, he was able to collect vast numbers of artifacts of Japanese life.

Among goods received in exchange for his teaching services, was a kimono with the circular family crest of the Tokugawa Shogun family, and "secret" maps of Japan, normally strictly forbidden to foreigners. He was found out, and banned for life under suspicion of being a spy. Many of his Japanese friends and students had to pay for this acquaintance with their lives. His 1829 eviction became known as the "Siebold Incident". He left his wife and daughter Oine, who eventually became Japan's first female medical doctor. His vast collection of artifacts is now at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden.


Contacts between the Dutch and Japanese authorities also took place during the annual 'court journey'. Just like regional Japanese leaders, the Dutch Opperhoofd from Deshima had to pay annual tribute to the Shogun in Edo and provide a detailed report on affairs in the outside world, the so-called `fusetsu gaki`. On this annual epic journey that could take up to three months, the Opperhoofd was usually accompanied by the VOC surgeon and some employees together with the Oranda-Tsuji and civil servants of the Nagasaki authorities - a total of some 150 to 200 persons. The procession with the `Red Haired Barbarians` attracted many curious onlookers - the trip was known as the `Edo Sanpu` and completed some 170 times. Partly over land to Shimonoseki in north Kyushu, the mission continued by boat to the Hyogo/Osaka area and then on to Edo via the Tokaido-route.

A poignant reminder of this journey is the grave of Opperhoofd Gijsbrecht Hemmij in the small city of Kakegawa, Shizuoka Prefecture, dated 1798, which was restored with funding from the City of Kakegawa and the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 2005.

The visit to the Shogun mandated many special and expensive gifts. Telescopes, medical instruments, medicines, canons, globes, exotic animals such as zebras, camels and monkeys were all examples of gifts presented to the Shogun and other high ranking officials. Scientific books were especially popular. In 1638 a beautiful copper "grand chandelier" with wax candles was presented to alleviate diplomatic tensions. It can still be seen in the Tosho-gu shrine in Nikko, the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu. In return the Dutch normally received expensive silk kimonos.


The presence of the Dutch in Deshima and their passing by while traveling the Edo Sanpu also had a perceptible effect on Japanese artists. Life on Deshima was the theme of many Nagasaki-e , or Nagasaki prints, bought as souvenirs by Japanese tourists visiting Nagasaki. Dutch figures were also painted on porcelain. Paintings and books brought from Holland inspired many local artists. Shiba Kokan painted Dutch landscapes he had never seen himself, perhaps the reason for the presence of mountains in some of his paintings. Kawahara Keiga was the personal assistant to Von Siebold and his paintings give a detailed description of life on Deshima at the beginning of the 19th century.

Wonderful collections of Nagasaki-e, porcelain decorated with Dutch figures and other Dutch-related art can today be seen in the Nagasaki Prefectural Museum,  Nagasaki Municipal Museum and the Kobe City Museum .


During the 19th century the world's political situation gradually changed. Holland had lost its supremacy of the seas, and the power of America and England was rising. During the opium war (1839-1842) England forced China to open five ports for international trade and to cede Hong Kong. Von Siebold, who after his eviction from Japan had been living and doing research in Holland, advised Dutch King Willem II to inform the Shogun of the war's outcome and to advise him to voluntarily open up Japan to foreign countries. Willem II wrote a "Royal Letter", which was handed over after a parade and ceremony in 1844 to the Nagasaki authorities. Though the Japanese government rejected the advice it was grateful for the friendly gesture.

The Dutch government warned the Shogun once more through Donker Curtius, who was appointed "Opperhoofd" of Deshima especially for this purpose. In 1852 he informed the Shogun that the Americans had plans to open up Japanese ports by force. The Japanese did not take the advice to heart and kept the letter secret - the 1853 arrival of Commodore Perry`s "black ships" squadron should not have come as the surprise it was.


The arrival of Commander Perry with his fleet in 1853 led to the opening up and modernisation of Japan. In 50 years the country changed from a feudal society to a modern western democracy. The exclusive role of the Dutch ended, though close contacts between the two countries continued. In the beginning the Dutch language continued to be used in official contacts with foreign countries, so the first contacts between the Americans and the Japanese had to be conducted in Dutch.The Japanese quickly understood the changing power balance in the world and in order to catch up with the west, the Japanese government dispatched scholars to America and Europe. Western specialists were invited to Japan to assist in modernising the country. Assistance from the Netherlands was offered in shipbuilding and military science, medicine and pharmacy, and civil engineering.

Soon after the arrival of Commodore Perry, the Shogunate requested Donker Curtius to deliver steamships. The Dutch government presented the naval vessel "Soembing", renamed in Japanese "Kanko Maru". The maritime school of Nagasaki was established for the handling and the maintenance of the ship and armaments. Commander Fabius of the Dutch navy and his crew, who sailed the ship to Japan, were the first teachers, and Katsu Kaishu one of their students. After evaluating the achievements of the "Kanko Maru", the Japanese government ordered a second ship. Originally named "Japan", it was renamed on its arrival in Japan into "Kanrin Maru" and was later sailed to America by Katsu Kaishu. Aboard the "Japan" were first engineer Hardes and medical doctor Pompe van Meerdervoort. Hardes became the founder of the first ship repair yard and steam engineering factory, out of which world class shipbuilders Mitsubishi would be born. Pompe van Meerdervoort followed in the footsteps of Von Siebold and established the first modern western hospital in Nagasaki. He in his turn was soon afterwards followed by A.F. Bauduin, C.G. Mansvelt, K.W. Gratama and A.C.J. Geerts, who all played a role in the development of a modern medical education system. They are responsible for the founding of the medical faculty at Osaka University. Gratama is revered as the founder of the "seimi kyoku", which was the first chemistry laboratory in Japan. Also a "seimi kyoku" was established in Kyoto and this one was the predecessor of the faculty of chemistry of the Kyoto University. The word "seimi" is directly derived from the Dutch word for chemistry "chemie". Gratama and his students developed the alloy used for coins of the first modern Japanese money.


Perhaps the most visible traces were left by the Dutch civil engineers invited by the Japanese government to assist in addressing the challenges of flooding in mountainous Japan. Dutch civil engineers were also invited to assist in building and developing the country's ports. C.J. van Doorn was the first. He designed an irrigation canal in Fukushima Prefecture, which later earned him a bronze statue of recognition, saved by local people from conversion into bullets in the second world war. At the request of the Japanese government, Van Doorn invited more engineers to join him including Johannis de Rijke, who did not have an academic degree but who had learnt his trade in hard practice, and G.A. Escher, father of artist M.C. Escher, known worldwide for his intriguing drawings. M.C. Escher was said to have been strongly influenced by the ukiyoe prints his father brought home from Japan. Johannis de Rijke turned out to be an excellent choice. He stayed in Japan for more than 30 years and ultimately became Vice Minister - probably the only foreigner ever to reach such high rank. His impressive achievements included riverbank improvements of the Yodogawa river in Osaka Prefecture, and the Kiso Sansen in central Japan - an area in which three rivers with different flows converged and regularly caused heavy flooding. De Rijke used techniques such as groynes, debris barriers and planting trees to reduce run-off erosion even though the absence of mountains in his home country had denied him the experience of building a corrosion dam. He also designed many of Japan's modern ports, including that of Osaka, Nagasaki and Yokohama. In total 12 Dutch civil engineers came to Japan in this period to ensure "dry feet" for the local people.

Besides inviting Dutch specialists to Japan, the Meiji government also sent Japanese scholars to the Netherlands. Nishi Amane and Tsuda Mamichi were sent to Leiden University and also Fukuzawa Yukichi visited Holland for study.

In the period following the opening of Japan, diplomatic contacts were formalised. The first Dutch Consulate was opened in 1859 in Yokohama, followed by a legation in Tokyo and a consulate in Kobe in 1868. Notwithstanding the contacts across many different fields and the long history of mutual cooperation they would unfortunately not stop war from breaking out between the two countries in Indonesia.

XI THE WAR, 1942-1945 

World War II was the first and only break in the friendly contacts between Japan and the Netherlands. With the aim of securing raw materials and creating a Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, Japan invaded Indonesia on 10 January 1942. This then Dutch colony was rich in raw materials from oil and rubber to pepper and spices. After two months of fighting the Royal Netherlands Indian Army capitulated. Some 40,000 Dutch soldiers were taken captive and sent to prisoner of war camps. Many in the civilian community were sent to labour camps all over Japan, some as far away as Hokkaido and Nagasaki, and to mines in North Kyushu.

The Japanese occupation of Indonesia finally led to that country's independence. After the war the Netherlands lost its status as major colonial power, and Japan was occupied by American forces until 1951. Old historical contacts had been upset. The war still exerts influence on the relations between the two countries.


Ratification of the peace treaty with Japan in 1952 led to the normalisation of relations and renewal of diplomatic ties. But the exclusive and influential role of the Netherlands was now a thing of the past. To most Japanese the Netherlands became just another European country. Economic, cultural and scientific contacts started anew towards the end of the fifties. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines opened regular flights. Philips was instrumental in the success of the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company. Cut flowers increasingly found their way into the hands of the flower-loving Japanese public. In the sixties, cultural contacts grew. The Royal Amsterdam Concertgebouw Orchestra pleased Japanese ears. Exhibitions of works by Van Gogh and Rembrandt attracted many visitors. "Rangaku" was followed by contacts between many universities. It was, however, perhaps a sporting event that put the Netherlands back on the Japanese map. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics judo was debuting as Olympic Sport, and it was expected that Japanese athletes would make a clean sweep of the gold medals. But that was before Dutchman Anton Geesink defeated Japanese champion Akio Kaminaga in the open-weight class. For the older generation, Geesink is still the best known Dutchman.

In 1983 relations between the two countries received a boost with the opening of the "Holland Village" theme park near Nagasaki. A Dutch windmill was the start. VOC ships, buildings and products followed, attracting many visitors. Gouda cheese and wooden shoes became popular. Dutch children's writer and illustrator Dick Bruna`s creation "Nijntje", known to every Dutch person, captured the hearts of many Japanese children as "Miffy-chan". "Holland Village" was such a success that the management decided to expand the project. The result was "Huis ten Bosch", which was opened in 1993. Named after the royal palace in the Hague, "Huis ten Bosch" surpassed "Holland Village" both in scale and content. The idea of "Huis ten Bosch" was not just the creation of a theme park, but a real village in which people could live, work and enjoy their leisure. True scale copies of many famous Dutch buildings include the palace Huis ten Bosch, that serves as a museum. Restaurants serve Dutch and European cuisine, and extensive collections of Dutch art can be admired. Because the Dutch Royal Household did not allow use of the same paintings which could be found in the real palace, young Dutch artist Rob Scholte was invited to design the artwork for the main hall. "Apres nous le Deluge" is a beautiful piece of which "Huis ten Bosch" can be proud.

There are not only visible traces, but also many linguistic reminders of our long mutual history. Mostly "handed over" in the sakoku-jidai period, loan words from the Dutch are still used in present day Japanese, many perhaps without the users being conscious of that fact. Biiru (beer), koohi (coffee), garasu (glass), pisutoru (pistol), orugoru (music box), otemba (tomboy) and literally translated words like byouin (hospital), mouchou (appendix) and tansan (carbonic acid) are just a few examples of how Dutch history plays a modest role in everyday Japanese life.


In the year 2000, 400 years of relations were celebrated in Japan and the Netherlands. In both countries committees were established to prepare and execute commemorative events. The Netherlands Embassy and the Netherlands Consulate General in Osaka acted as representatives in Japan of the Dutch "Organisation for the Commemoration of 400 Years of Dutch-Japanese Relations". They worked in close cooperation with the Japanese committee headed by Dr. Taro Nakayama. During the year 2000 more than 400 events took place in Japan. The events, ranging from classical and pop concerts, exhibitions on 17th century art as well as modern industrial design, to trade fairs and symposiums, presented the Netherlands in all its facets. One of the most important events during the commemorative year was the "Holland Week" which started on April 19, 2000, the day the ship "Liefde" arrived in Japan 400 years earlier. During this "Holland Week" the Dutch Crown Prince and a large number of VIPs from the Netherlands visited Usuki in Oita Prefecture, where our shared history began, and then headed for Nagasaki. The group also visited Huis ten Bosch, Hirado, the Kansai area and Tokyo.

In all these cities a wide variety of commemorative events took place, such as the opening of a part of the rebuilt trading post on Deshima (a Dutch settlement in Nagasaki that became Japan's sole window on the western world when Japan isolated itself from the rest of the world), concerts by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra , the "De Rijke Symposium" on water management, performances by the Netherlands Dance Theater, a visit by 4 vessels of the Royal Netherlands Navy and numerous exhibitions and other events.

In 2008 Japan and the Netherlands commemorated that 150 years had passed since official diplomatic ties between the two countries were forged in 1858. In 2009 we celebrate the fact that 400 years ago formal commercial ties between our two seafaring nations were established. Commemorative events, both in the Netherlands and in Japan, include all facets of the arts, both modern and traditional, as well as economic events and academic exchanges. These two years have seen a string of high level visits, involving many ministers in different fields. In the Netherlands, the formal celebration of the 400 years of bilateral trade took place in August 2009. The Dutch Prime Minister's vsist to Japan in October is to be the highlight of our commemorative events held in Japan.