The Netherlands – Japan > 1783: The annual journey to the court

In 1783, VOC agent Isaac Titsingh traveled from the island of Deshima to Edo (present-day Tokyo). The voyage was made by sedan chair and boat, and took about two months. Just as the VOC agents before him and those who became his successors, Titsingh was making the annual journey to the court of the Shogun (the highest military leader).

Stoet hofreis

This journey fitted into the Japanese tradition of local princes going to Edo once a year to pay their respects to the Emperor. At the time, however, the highest authority was wielded by the Shogun, while the Emperor, who resided in Kyoto, merely had symbolic duties. The VOC employees brought the Shogun gifts. The nature of these gifts varied, but they often included exotic objects, animals, books and scientific instruments. It was not unusual for the Shogun to have his courtiers indicate what gifts he wished to receive the following year.

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