Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Deshima, or Dejima (出 島 , literally 'protruding island') in modern Japanese, was a fan-shaped artificial island in the bay of Nagasaki that was a Dutch trading post during Japan's self-imposed isolation (sakoku) of the Edo period, from 1641 until 1853.
The island was constructed in 1634 and originally accommodated Portuguese merchants. After the Portuguese and other Catholic nations were expelled from Japan in 1641, the shogunate ordered the Dutch East India Company to transfer its mercantile operations from the port of Hirado to Deshima. It is significant that Deshima was a man-made island, hence not part of Japan proper. Thus the foreigners (Portuguese and Dutch) were kept at arm's length from the sacred soil of Japan.
For the next two hundred years, Dutch merchants were generally not allowed to cross from Deshima to Nagasaki, and Japanese were likewise banned from entering Deshima, except for prostitutes. Official exceptions were also made to this rule, especially following Tokugawa Yoshimune's doctrine of promoting European practical sciences. European scholars such as Engelbert Kaempfer, Carl Peter Thunberg, and Philipp Franz von Siebold were allowed to enter the mainland with the shogunate's permission. Starting in the 1700s, Deshima became known throughout Japan as a center of medicine, military science, and astronomy, and many samurai travelled there for "Dutch studies" (Rangaku).
In addition, the Head of the Dutch 'factory' (trading post) was treated like a Japanese daimyo, which meant that he had to pay a visit of homage to the Shogun in Edo once every two years (the so-called sankin kotai). There he and his retinue were expected to perform Dutch dances and songs etc. for the amusement of the shogunate.
The Dutch East India Company's trading post at Deshima was closed in 1857, once Dutch merchants were allowed to trade in Nagasaki City. Since then, the island has been surrounded by landfill and merged into Nagasaki: its original location is marked by rivets.
A project to restore Deshima is now underway. In modern Japanese the pronunciation would be Dejima; in relation to the Dutch trading post, Deshima is the preferred spelling.
- DEJIMA: The Island Comes Back to Life
- a map of Deshima
- at the bottom you will also find an image of Deshima
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