Brent Olson
Journal from Around Jan 25th
Dejima, dude.


Dejima was an island constructed by Japanese merchants (CE); it began in 1634 with the order to build coming from the bakufu government and was completed 18 months later. The island was 15,395 square meters in size and shaped like a flat piece of macaroni. Now it's hidden. Well, it's may not be hidden, but Dejima is no longer an island; it's right next to downtown Nagasaki, in fact. Much of Nagasaki is built on land created by shaving down mountains and dumping the earth into the sea--reclaimed land, as it was told to me. Dejima was created using essentially the same process. Now all the space around it is of the same character.

Around 800 Dutchmen were allowed to live on the island. (No women except for courtesans.) There was one bridge from the island to the main port, and the Dutch were not allowed to cross it; nor were they to leave their little island. They were not permitted to learn Japanese. Such was the status quo until the opening of Japan to foreign trade and exchange in the mid 1800's.

On my way to Dejima, I thought that I was actually going to walk over some bridge onto an island. Turned out it was just some neighborhood. The only distinguishing points I found were the museums (some seven museums in the Dejima area--all of them quite small) with paintings, painted by Japanese artists, depicting Dutch life. The paintings, and the descriptions accompanying them for that matter, present the Dutch in a fashion that is rather humorous.

For example, I found this written above some artifacts: "Cooking Utensils: Earthenware pots and other cooking utensils have been found. The unearthed artifacts also include a large number of gin and wine bottles."

Just a few feet away I noted a painting entitled,"In the Kitchen at Dejima", painted by Kawahara Keiga, which portrays six men pounding huge amounts of red, nondescript meat on a large table. Another man gleefully cuts open a swine's throat and bleeds the beast into a substantial vat of blood.

Another highlight of the museum was its unearthed cow carcass. Two hundred years of trading and a minimum of cultural exchange. It seems to fit with the painting of Dutchmen I saw--always either drinking, smoking or eating--they must have looked silly, or at least pretty idiosyncratic.

For more on-line information on Dejima visit:
http://www.us1.nagasaki-noc.ne.jp/nacity/dejima/index_e.html

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