Nagasaki, in the modern period, is well-known for its history of foreign influences. This essay will aim explore the influence of foreign trading at the Nagasaki port in the Tokugawa period. In this essay, I will compare two woodcut prints of the Nagasaki port, produced 40 years apart, examine some differences in depiction and attempt to provide some historical context to these changes.

General map description:

The first map, Hishū Nagasaki zu, is a 61.3 x 86.7 cm woodcut print. It was published in 1821 by Bunkindō, one of the four largest publishing houses for Nagasaki-e in the Tokugawa period[1].

See Map at UBC Open Collections

The second map of the Nagasaki port, Shinsen Hizen Nagasaki zu, a 43.2 x 63.7 cm woodcut print, was published by Kojudō in late 1860. It is noted that the map may have been published in commemoration of the opening of the Nagasaki port to American traders in 1857[2].

See map at UBC Library Open Collections

Both maps are oriented diagonally, with straight North pointing to the upper right corner of the map. This allows an aesthetically pleasing depiction of the ships horizontally entering and exiting the port. This orientation places Dejima in the centre of the maps as their subjects. Both maps include a chart at the bottom left hand corner describing the distances from Nagasaki to various city centres. These calculations include the distances travelled by land and by sea. For instance, the Hishū Nagasaki zu states that the distance from Nagasaki to Osaka is 197 ri by land, and 235 ri by sea[3].


The Dutch at Dejima:

Dejima is an artificially island constructed in the port of Nagasaki, initially built to inhibit the propagation of Christianity by Portuguese residents in Nagasaki. It was completed in 1636, and funded by Nagasaki’s Japanese merchants. In 1637, the Shimabara Rebellion occurred; initially an uprising against unfair treatment by officials in Shimabara, it became associated with the Christian religion[4]. This resulted in the complete expulsion of Portuguese residents from Japan. Dejima thus becomes the factory ground for the Dutch East India Company in 1641. Dejima became Japan’s sole contact with Europe until the late 1850’s[5].

dejima 18241825.jpg
Dejima Island 1780

The island is not illustrated in great detail on the Hishū Nagasaki zu, but one can identify a fence surrounding the perimeters of the island, and the single bridge that connects the trading post to the mainland. At this point (1820’s), the island is made up of warehouses, and some residential housing, as illustrated by the shaded blocks and roofed houses. Life on Dejima was monotonous. The Dutch residence had to abide by strict rules, and special permission was required to leave the island[6].

By the time the Shinsen Hizen Nagasaki zu was produced in 1860, Japan’s foreign relations had undergone significant change. With the arrival of the American fleet, the Shogunate government was forced to sign a U.S.-Japan treaty, opening up the country to trade with the Western world[7]. The Dutch government signed a similar treaty with Japan soon after; trade became exchanges with individual merchants rather than the Dutch factory. In early 1860, Dejima as a Dutch factory ceased to exist, becoming the new Dutch Consulate[8].

Dejima depicted in the Shinsen Hizen Nagasaku zu appears to have sparse roofed structures. The blocks of structures seen in the previous map seems to have disappeared, showing a change in the function of the island. There is also a second bridge connecting the island to the mainland, likely built after the establishment of the Dutch-Japan Treaty of Peace and Amity, permitting free entry and exit onto the island.

Foreign settlements (Gaigokujin yashiki) at Oura:

One of the most prominent changes between the two maps is the addition of the foreign residence to the area of Oura. The government, under the foreign treaties signed in the late 1850s, had to clear an area for incoming Western residents. Therefore, the area of Oura along the bay was designated to be filled and residences built for foreign merchants, sailors, and travellers[9]. The settlement officially opened July 1st, 1895[10], with most of its settlers originating from Britain.

Along with the influx of foreign traders, came the Western Christian missionaries. At this point, Christian practices was only allowed inside the foreign settlement. This did not stop Western missionaries’ attempted propagation of faith under the guise of teaching English to Japanese interpreters[11]

On the Shinsen Hizen Nagasaku zu, the foreign settlement on Oura is depicted as a large mass of land across from Dejima. It is hard to distinguish the building structures that are portrayed. However, records show that there are a variety of establishments at the settlement other than residential housing, including hotels, taverns, tea-firing establishments, and warehouses[12]. Amongst the undistinguishable buildings portrayed, it is easy to spot the churches marked by large crosses on the roofs. The map’s comparatively clear depiction of the churches reflect the prevalence of religion in Western culture, something that had been observed by the Japanese map-makers.



[1] Nagasaki-e, prints depicting particular characteristics of Nagasaki, are woodblock prints that became popular in the Edo period. They often depict foreigners or foreign objects, such as ships. These prints satiate the curiosity the Japanese held towards foreigners on their land, and are often bought by Japanese travellers during their stay to Nagasaki.


[3] “ri” is a measurement of distance, approximately equal to 500 metres.

[4] Marius B Jansen, Making of Modern Japan (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p 77-78.


[6] Marius B Jansen, Making of Modern Japan (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p 81.

[7] Marius B Jansen, Making of Modern Japan (Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2002), p 283.


[9] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 484.

[10] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 483.

[11] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 488.

[12] Earns, Lane. “The Foreign Settlement in Nagasaki, 1859–1869.” The Historian 56, no. 3 (1994): 485.


Contributor: Angel
March 28, 2017