From 1550, Portuguese explorers started sharing tales with other curious Europeans of that distant and mysterious country, Japan. In about 1640, Japan declared a policy of isolationism and the trickle of information from the "Land of the Rising Sun" was in danger of drying up. For the next two centuries, representatives of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) were the only Europeans allowed access to the country. A few of these Dutch officials, interested in more than just trade and aware that the demand in Europe for these tales had increased as information became more scarce, committed their experiences and detailed observations on Japan to paper.
This book, written in Dutch, is about these documents. It examines how the VOC gained access to Japan, and the influence played by these texts. The documents are analyzed from the perspective of their authors' motivation for writing them, the ways in which they gathered their information, and the descriptions an pictorial images they presented of Japan. It examines how so few texts originating from the VOC exerted such a powerful influence for 200 years on thinking an debates on people, culture, and coexistence in Europe. It was by translating these documents into other languages that Japan was seen to reflect European civilization and reveal its shortcomings in the 17th and 18th centuries.