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Japanese Depictions of Southeast Asia

Following up on depictions of Southeast Asia by other sources other than the West. Here are some Japanese prints I’ve found online.

For some context:

+ The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan in 1543, soon followed by the British/Dutch in 1600. Partly because of the evangelizing of the British and Portuguese, the Shogunate implemented a series of edicts called Sakuko, isolating Japan from the world for the next 220 years till around 1853.

+ In part because the Dutch weren’t interested in evangelizing, they (and the Chinese) were allowed to trade via Dejima, a small trading port in Nagasaki. 

+ During this period, the Dutch has also forced it’s way into what is Indonesia now, trading at first but eventually started its colonization project, which would would explain the Javanese servants in the prints.

The illustrations come in a range of styles, but all depict Javanese (one referred as Balinese) in servitude to the Dutch, often holding parasols or handling some other item. They often have headwear and are more often than not, depicted with colourful patterned clothing. 

Early 19th century Attributed to Kawahara Keiga (Source)
 Nederlands opperhoofd met Javaanse bediende (1800 to 1850) (Source)
 Five Dutch Men having a Meal, anonymous, after Rin Shihei, 1790 – 1810 (Source
Dutch man with his kurobo (black servant), with tray. (Source)
A hanging scroll by an unidentified painter. 19th century (Source)
 Chief Jan Cock Blomhoff and a servant, probably from Java. (Source)
Dutchmen preparing ointment (Source)
Dutchman and Javanese servant playing with dogs (Source)
Dutchmen on a court journey with musicians and an elephant, a gift to the Shogun. Pretty sure the mahout is Southeast Asian. (Source)
Dutch man and Javanese slave offering coal to cassowary bird , 1785 (Source
Dutch man taking a walk with his Javanese slave holding an umbrella, and a dog.  Late 18th century (Source)
Hendrik Doeff and a Balinese servant in Dejima, Japanese painting, c. early 19th century (Source)
Dutchmen with a servant, Kawahara Keiga, around 1820-1830 (Source
Dutch Lady with Servant, early 1800s (Source)

Titia Bergsma and her servant Petronella Muns was purportedly the first European women to enter Japan. Titia was the wife of then chief of Dejima trading port. However, foreign women weren’t allowed into Japan at that point and Titia had to leave Japan, staying only for 4 months. In that short period, she did however fascinate many artists and had many drawings and prints did of her.

She also apparently had 2 Javanese servants and they frequently were illustrated too.

Print by Kawahara Keiga, circa 1817 (Source)

I’ve compiled all the images above available for download here: Japanese Depictions of SEA

Check out other posts with illustrations from books here.

Other Trivia

 + The interaction of the Japanese and the world(esp Southeast Asia) was not one sided, the Japanese did travel, pirate and traded widely in Asia. Red Seal ships traded regularly to Southeast Asia before the implementation of Sakuko.  

+ Right before Japan’s isolationist policies, the period when the Portuguese freely traded in Japan was called the period of Nanban Trade, ironically Nanban meant “Southern Barbarians”, a term originally referring to Southeast Asians/South Asians before it shifted it’s meaning to the Europeans. 


Text By Munkao. This post was originally published October 8, 2019 on the A Thousand Thousand Islands Patreon.

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A Thousand Thousand Islands is no longer available on this website.
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