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Kyuushuu Part 1 - Nagasaki, First contact

Internationalization, indoctrination and industrialization

Today, we are embarking on the first of three enteries about my first trip to Kyuushuu; the southern most of the four main islands that make up Japan (excluding the islands that make up Okinawa).

After a short flight from Osaka we arrive in Nagasaki, a town well known around the world as being, along with Hiroshima, one of the two cities to be targetted with Atomic bombs during WWII. However, Nagasaki has a much richer history that isn't quite so well known as it was the first point of real contact between Japan and the rest of the world; a fact that has shaped the city in a way that is still evident to this day, with clearly visible European and Chinese influences abounding all over the city. Such as this hill top church looking down on the waterfront

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The map below shows Nagasaki as it used to be in 1792, in particular the placement of foriegn colonies around the harbour. On the right is Dutch trading post, Dejima; more about that later. On the left are the Chinese settlement and Shinchi Warehouse complex. There is still a small China town in Nagasaki, a few intersecting streets strewn with Chinese resturants, but not much remains of the orignial settlement bar a few gateways that open onto nothing. There was a vending machine full of Chinese specialities, including canned 'Bird's Nest Soup' right where the historical heart of the settlement would have been.

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The Dutch settlement has been far better preserved. Actually Dejima wasn't just a Dutch colony, it was in fact built in 1634 to contain traders from Portugal. More specifically it was to contain the threat posed by the new religious ideas that came with the traders. However, only a few years later an attempted uprising (called the Shimbara Rebellion, mostly undertaken by peasents who had converted to Christianity) Japanese attitudes towards foriegners took a harsher turn. By 1639 all the Porugese had been expelled and from 1641 only the Chinese and Dutch were allowed to trade with Japan, and only via Nagasaki. The Dutch were allowed to stay, mainly due to there professional and business like approach to relations, and because of an emnity with Portugal that the Japanese now sympathised with. So between 1641 and 1853 Dejima became a Dutch trading post.

Dejima was in fact a small artificial island built in the harbour; 'Dejima' literally means protruding island. It was walled off and seperated from Japanese Nagasaki to satisfy the requirements of the Japanese Sakoku (an isolationist policy in effect at the time). Strict rules about inhabitants of Dejima leaving the compound and, vice versa, about Japanese entering it were put into place. It was purely business, and no more seditious ideas were going to be tollerated.

Over the years the expansion of Nagasaki has swollowed up Dejima so it's no longer and island. The area that used to make up the island is still preserved behind a wall that seperates it from the city, and many of the original buildings (a hybrid of European and Japanese styles) have been reconstructed exactly where they used to stand (there are plans to raise even more of these over the next few years)

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Although the exterior of the buildings may be a hybrid of two cultures, but many of the interiors are strictly classic European. Real beds, fine lighting for fine dining, plush wall paper and elegant flourishes that betray the fashion of the times are everywhere; except in the areas where the Japanese would have worked, the fireplace in the tally house where the Japanese importers would have counted the goods it very Japanese in style for example.

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There is also a fine collection of objects preserved from the period, including somehting else that Europeans brought to Japan that would forever change the country - guns. Though what you can see here is an encrusted pistol the weapon that had a real effect on the course of Japanese history was the Matchlock rifle, but that's another story.

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By the time Dejima ceased to serve as a trading post the political tides had begun to shift again. Although anti-Western sentiment was still rife it was largely aimed at the Japanese Shogante who had entered into agreements unbalanced foriegn trade agreements. There was a rising movement to topple the Shogante, and restore the Emperor as ruled of Japan.

One man who sympathised with this cause, and even helped provide weapons for the rebels was the Scot, Thomas Blake Glover. After the eventual establishment of the Meiji Government, Glover's became in instrumental figure in the industrialization of Japan.

This bust of Thomas Glover stands in the grounds of Glover Garden, a park built around the site where his and his comapnion's old houses once stood.

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Although initially in Japan to trade in green tea, Glovers role in supplying weapons during the Boshin war saw him soon expanding into other areas thanks to the gratitude of the new government.

The patch of asphalt road (pictured above) is just one of many firsts that Glover brought to Japan. He was also responsible for setting up Japan's first coal mine and first dry dock. This latter development was part of the establishment of the shipping company that would later became the Mitsubishi corporation that we know today.

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Glover, for most of his life in Japan, lived with a Japanese woman called Awajiya Tsuru with whom he had a daughter called Hana. The couple never married, but Awajiya is regarded as Glover's common-law wife. Though the fact that he also adopted another British-Japanese child born of another woman, whose connection to Glover is unknown, suggests it may not have been a strictly exclusive relationship.

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Yet, despite a strong Japanese influence in his life Glover built a distinctly European world aound himself. The buildings of Glover park may be roofed with Japanese tiles, but inside (like Deshima) they are bastions of European style. Though at the time the Georgian style may have seemed a little outdated to the modern Victorian gent; surprising for a man who brought so much modern edge to all his business concearns.

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As you've probably gathered by now, all this history makes Nagasaki quite a unique place in Japan. It was the first point of contact for Japan with the world, and that first contact sent out ripples that that can be traced through the landscape of the city, and maybe even through all of Japan. Through the Portugese and Dutch Deshima traders bringing goods, Gods and guns. Through the missionaries and the martrys, the failed and the sucessful rebellions, the influx of new ideas and technologies that started here - Nagasaki has shaped Japan just as much Kyoto and Tokyo have.

Posted by DKJM74 22:11

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