Pieter Nuyts

From SamuraiWiki
Jump to navigationJump to search

Pieter Nuyts was an officer of the Dutch East India Company, who had a number of notable conflicts with the Tokugawa shogunate, both as opperhoofd (factor, i.e. head) of the Company's base in Japan c. 1627, and as head of Fort Zeelandia, the Dutch base on Taiwan, in 1628.

Nuyts was a graduate of Leiden University, and arrived in Japan with titles including "extraordinary councilor of the Indies" and "special ambassador to the shogun of Japan." His first mission to Edo, in 1627, however, was a failure. After arriving in the city in a large and expensive procession some 300-men strong, bearing extensive gifts for the shogun, the embassy was for some reason rejected. About one month after arriving in Edo, Nuyts and his men fled the city in the middle of the night, having never been granted audience with the shogun, nor official permission (leave) to depart from the city. Historian Adam Clulow writes of these events evocatively, noting the size and grandeur of the Dutch retinue, and Nuyts' own arrival into the city in a grand palanquin, carried through the streets by six bearers, in stark contrast to their departure, with a far smaller group, hastily arranged, and with palanquin bearers who abandoned Nuyts in the middle of the street when confronted by guards.[1]

The following year, Nuyts was appointed head of Fort Zeelandia, the Dutch base on Taiwan. Reportedly bearing resentments against the Japanese (whether because of the rejected mission, or other reasons, is unclear), Nuyts had the Dutch harass a number of Japanese trading ships traveling to or from Southeast Asia. In response, a group of some 500 Japanese "adventurers", led by trader Hamada Yahyoee, and supposedly acting on orders from Nagasaki bugyô Suetsugu Heizô, attacked the Fort, and managed to capture Nuyts. They released him soon afterwards, but took his son and four others captive, later trading these captives for Nuyts himself.[2] The Tokugawa shogunate, though not in any way involved in this attack or hostage-taking, was nevertheless angered by Nuyts’ actions, and impounded nine Dutch vessels, banned Dutch trade in Japan for three years, and demanded that either Nuyts, or the Fort, be turned over to shogunate authorities. Though the VOC was quite hesitant, they eventually gave in and turned Nuyts over in 1632. He was then imprisoned for three and a half years.[3]

Nuyts was eventually freed in 1636. The Dutch gift of a massive brass chandelier to the shogunate - still displayed at Nikkô Tôshôgû today - is said to have played a notable role in effecting his release.[4]


  1. Adam Clulow, The Company and the Shogun: The Dutch Encounter with Tokugawa Japan, Columbia University Press (2014), 1-2.
  2. Arano Yasunori, "The Formation of a Japanocentric World Order," International Journal of Asian Studies 2:2 (2005), 189.
  3. Gary Leupp, Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900, A&C Black (2003), 8, 61-63.
  4. Clulow, 246-249.