The Netherlands – Japan > 1600: The first contact

The Japanese must have considered the bobbing up and down of the small ship De Liefde in the Bungo Strait, off the coast of the island of Kyushu, a strange sight on 19 April 1600. She was, by then, hardly seaworthy and only twenty-five of the original one hundred crew members had survived. They were in such bad shape that only five of them were able to go ashore.

Map of Japan 

Almost two years earlier, on 27 June 1598, De Liefde had left the port of Rotterdam for Asia with four other ships. At the time, there were more than five hundred men on board the ships. The small fleet wanted to avoid the sea route around Cape of Good Hope, that was controlled by the Portuguese. Therefore, it sailed to the Pacific Ocean by way of the most southern tip of South America. The voyage failed miserably and, in the end, only a single ship was to return to Rotterdam. The others were lost in different parts of the world, De Liefde being one of them.

The Japanese who came on board were astonished at the ‘Barbarians’ and their ship. They stole the fittings, but carried the remaining crew and the fittings ashore. There, the crew members were given the opportunity to recuperate, although it proved to be too late for six of them, who still died. The Dutch had arrived in Japan and were to remain there for more than two centuries.

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