Timmermans returns historic trade permit to Japan

European Affairs Frans Timmermans has left for a three-day visit to Japan that will focus on international cultural policy in the context of the 2008-2009 celebrations. In 2008, Japan and the Netherlands celebrated 150 years of diplomatic relations, while this year marks the 400th anniversary of trade relations between the two countries.

Mr Timmermans will not come to Japan empty handed. He will personally ensure that the document issued to the Dutch in 1609, granting them permission to trade with all Japanese ports, is returned to the place where it was originally issued. The document has been preserved in the National Archives in The Hague. The permit is one of the many fascinating items displayed in the Oranda to Nippon exhibition in Nagasaki, which will run until mid-January 2010.

From 1609 to 1857, the Netherlands was the only western country with a permanent presence in Japan, first in Hirado and then in Nagasaki.

In Hirado, Mr Timmermans will attend a conference on the reconstruction of the 17th-century trading post of the Dutch East India Company, where he will present a portrait of Captain Speckx, the first head of the trading post. He will then travel to the artificial island of Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s base from 1641 to 1857 and the place from which the Dutch, as Japan’s only ‘window to the west’ in that period, introduced western learning.

In Tokyo, Mr Timmermans will give a lecture, meet with various Japanese colleagues and open the Anne Frank exhibition at Sophia University. He will also open a modern art exhibition by visual communication agency Thonik.