English summary of the inventory of the archives of the Dutch factory in Japan, 1609-1860

Fonds Specifications


Biographical History (Sketch of the Record Creator)

4. The government of Nagisaki. The relations between the Japanese Authorities and the Dutch on Deshima.
The port of Nagisaki, were from 1641 on all foreign traffic was concentrated, stood, as has been said previously, under direct control of the Bakufu. The central government was represented by two governors, 'Bugyo', who resided alternately in the capital. The dutch called them "Gouverneurs", whilst they had various names for the subordinate officials: "Bongiozen" or "Banjozen" (derived from the word 'Bugyo'). There was also a council of town elders, 'Toshiyorishu', 'Machi-doshiyori', proceeding from the local landowners. (Dutch: "Stadsburgemeesters").
Every member in turn was at head of affairs during one year. (Jap.:'Nemban'; Dutch: "Opperburgemeester" or "Rapporteur Burgemeester"). The town of Nagisaki was divided into quarters, each quarter controlled by an 'Otona'. Deshima constituted a seperated quarter under the guidance of three Otona, who alternated every day at noon. The Interpreters were formed into a sort of guild or college ("het collegie" they call themselves for short in their translations) with a maximum strength of 150, seniors and apprentices together. "Though their positions dated from the Dutch factory at Hirado, their systematic ranks seen to have emarged in the Nagasaki-Deshima era....The interpreters combined the jobs of linguist, commercial agent and spy".
After 1695, seven senior interpreters under the leadership of a 'metsuke' formed a college of head interpreters. (Dutch : "Collegie van Oppertolken"). These eight persons signed and stamped the engrossments and translations of nearly all documents that where exchanged between the Dutch and the Japanese authorities. Apart from these "Gouverneurs, banjozen, burgemeesters, opper- en ondertolken, ottenaas, en de dwarskijckers" the Dutch had to deal with the purveyors of the victuals for the factory, the cooks, servants, fireguard, gate-keepers, coolies ect. All were paid or given gifts by the company, wich thus provided a living for an important part of the inhabitants of Nagisaki.
All contact with the Japanese officials must be maintained through the interpreters. The majority of the company's servants thus acquired only a scanty knowledge of Japanese language and writing, wich was further impeded on the part of the Opperhoofden by their yearly change in office. (Cf.par.5.). Moreover, the Bakufu generally thwarted the efforts of Dutch and Japanese alike to establish a closer contact outside the commercial sphere. Therefore the Governors-General at Batavia mostly took refuge to the Chinese language in their letters to the Shogun, the Imperial Council of Nagisaki Governors. (Cf.inv.nrs. 638, 639). In this way there was greater certainty that the contents would reachtheir destination in the original form and meaning, not being mistranslated by the interpreters.
In the 17th century the interpreters often had an insufficient commandof the Dutch language, wich caused much trouble and annoyance on both sides. Of course, the total absence of dictionaries ond other expendients made the task of the interpreters a difficult one. After about 1670, matters change for the better: on 1670 decmber 15 the interpreters are recorded to be exercising in Dutch writing and in 1671 the Governor orders the intruction of interpreters on Deshima. The daily record of 1673 november 9 contains the following passage: "The interpreters come to inform us that the Governor has decided and ordered that a certain Japanese boy, about ten or twelve years old, will come here daily on the island, in order to learn Dutch from one of the company's servants, as likewise to be taught how to read and write the same.