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JAPAN – Nagasaki. Shinkö Nagasaki-no-zu.



An especially attractive large-format early 19th Century map of Nagasaki, then Japan’s ‘Window to the World,’ printed in Nagasaki by Baikö-dö.


1 in stock


This fine map depicts Nagasaki, on the southwestern coast of the island of Kyushu, as it appeared at the beginning of the 19th Century, capturing the scene from a roughly northwestward orientation.  From the early 17th to the mid-19th Centuries, Nagasaki maintained outsized importance as Japan’s only port open to foreign trade.   The city’s distinct fan-shaped pattern of street opens up to the harbour while the island compound of Deshima, which housed the Dutch factory and residences, projects into the port.  The harbour is plied by numerous vessels including Dutch tall ships, Chinese junks and Japanese inner-coastal trading boats.  The map is extremely detailed and labels every street and geographical feature, while the register, in the lower-left, features lengthy descriptive text written in both Japanese and Chinese.


The map was made by the pataan woodblock technique and features beautiful original hand colour in four hues.  Nagasaki was then one of the four great centres of woodblock print production in Japan, and this map is an especially fine example of the style that prevailed in the city.  The map was published by Baikö-dö and is based on a map originally issued, in 1802, by Köju-do, except that it is printed in a reverse fashion from its antecedent.  The map is widely admired as both one of the finest historical maps of Nagasaki and as a magnificent example of period Japanese topographical art.


Nagasaki: Japan’s ‘Window to the World’


From the mid-16th to the mid-19th Century, Nagasaki was one of the most important centres in Japan, being its main gateway to the outside world.  Prior to this period, Nagasaki was a relatively insignificant fishing port.  However, upon the arrival of the Portuguese in Japan, in 1543, Nagasaki began to assume great importance.  With an excellent natural harbour facing the major East Asian shipping lanes, yet comfortably distant form the Japanese centers of power, Kyoto and Edo, it was viewed as the ideal location for European and Chinese trade.  Japan was then a major producer of silver, the basis of currency in East Asia, and, in return, it had a great appetite for foreign goods.  During the second half of the 16th Century, Nagasaki quickly grew into Japan’s most important port for foreign trade, then dominated almost exclusively by Portugal and China. 


However, European goods were not the only things the Portuguese imported into Japan.  Jesuit missionaries had quickly found hundreds of thousands of converts amongst the Japanese populous.  The Tokugawa Shogunate, a feudal military regime that assumed control over Japan in 1603 (and would rule until 1868), felt threatened by the rise of Christianity and moved to violently suppress it.  In time, this led to a suspicion of foreigners in general, and direct conflict with the Portuguese, in particular. 


From 1633 to 1639, the Shogunate introduced the policy of Sakoku, by which all contact between Japan and the outside world was to be extremely limited.  The Portuguese were expelled from the islands and the only European power permitted to trade directly with Japan was the Netherlands’ East India Company (the VOC).  The Dutch were considered to be concerned only in money and, certainly compared to the Portuguese, were relatively uninterested in meddling in Japan’s internal social and political affairs.  The only Asian players given direct trading privileges with Japan were China and Korea.  Additionally, a key element of Sakoku was that Japanese vessels were banned from leaving Japanese inshore waters. 


Importantly, all foreign trade with Japan was henceforth mandated to flow exclusively through Nagasaki.  Foreigners were not permitted to land at any other ports and were generally not allowed to leave the city of Nagasaki, save for infrequent embassies to the Japanese capital of Edo.  Moreover, the Dutch merchants were relegated to living on the small island of Deshima.  While they were permitted to enter the city during the day, at night they had to return to their compound.  This way, the Shogunate hoped that Japan could enjoy the financial benefits of foreign trade, without the political and social instability caused by a widespread foreign presence.  For over two centuries this policy worked quite effectively.


Nagasaki thrived under Sakoku, as more wealth was funnelled through its harbour than any other port in all of Asia.  It was also the locus of many fascinating and important cross-cultural exchanges of ideas, art and technology, between foreigners and the Japanese people. 


In 1821, when the present map was issued, Nagasaki, and all of Japan, was still very much under the rule of the Shogunate’s isolationist policies.  However, in 1853, the American Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Edo Harbour (Tokyo), and forced the ailing Shogunate to open Japan up to international trade.  While Nagasaki became a free port, in 1859, the replacement of the Shogunate with the aggressively outward-looking and industrializing Meiji Imperial regime, in 1868, hailed the end of Nagasaki’s exclusive role as Japan’s ‘Window to the World’.


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