Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Red-Haired Barbarians

Dutch ship - Text: "... Their maneuvering is truly
miraculously fast and mysterious."

For more than 200 years the only direct contact Japan had with the west was via the trading station set up on a tiny man-made island, Dejima (map) in Nagasaki. Originally Portuguese traders were allowed in but after a Japanese christian uprising in 1637 which was overcome with the help of Holland, Dutch merchants were the sole westerners with trading rights until 1853.

Dutch King William III - Text: "Even the people
who write with crabbed hand are craving for
the Elevated Way of our Country"

An unsuccessful bid for commercial rights
by a Russian contingent in 1804

The International Institute for Social History in Holland have a modest exhibit, The Red-Haired Barbarians, in english, of woodblock prints that were made from word of mouth descriptions or brief glimpses caught of the strange foreigners in their midst during the sakoku of the Edo period. The prints were published and sold to tourists visiting Nagasaki. It was mildly amusing reading the attitude in some of the text in the exhibit.

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