Treaty of Amity (Ryukyu-Holland)

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  • Date: 1859/6/7
  • Japanese: 琉蘭修好条約 (Ryuu-Ran shuukou jouyaku)

The Treaty of Amity between the Kingdoms of Ryûkyû and the Netherlands, signed on 1859/6/7 (June 29 on the Western calendar), was the third of Ryûkyû's treaties signed with Western powers; it signed similar treaties with the United States in 1854 and with France in 1855.


Ryûkyû's treaties with the United States and France came about directly after agents of those countries came ashore in Ryûkyû and requested to negotiate such agreements. The Dutch, however, as a result of their longstanding relationship with the Tokugawa shogunate, instead first asked the shogunate (via the Nagasaki bugyô) for permission to pursue such a Treaty. The answer came back that the shogunate had no authority to grant, or to withhold, such permission.

This came at the same time as Shimazu Nariakira, through his retainer Ichiki Shirô, was engaged in secret discussions to attempt to (1) stack the Ryukyuan government with officials loyal to his plans, and (2) get Ryûkyû to enter into formal relations with either the French or the Dutch to expand trade, obtain arms & warships, and otherwise act as Satsuma's foreign relations arm; since Tokugawa maritime restrictions policies did not (for the most part) apply to Ryûkyû, Ryûkyû could engage in foreign relations on Satsuma's behalf in ways that Satsuma itself could not. This plan fell through, however, as Nariakira suddenly fell ill and died, possibly poisoned, in 1858.

Treaty Negotiations

A Dutch representative named Van Koperen arrived in Ryûkyû on 1859/5/29 (June 29). The following day, he entered into negotiations with sôrikan Takamine aji, and by 6/7 (July 6) they had come to an agreement.

Still, there were a few points of disagreement. Having already signed two previous treaties, Ryûkyû would have found it difficult to refuse the Dutch at least the same privileges that had already been extended to the French and Americans. However, Ryûkyû refused to go further; in particular, they refused to open full trade relations, the establishment of a Protestant church, and the establishment of a resident consul. Ryûkyû also struggled to refuse the Dutch demand that the Ryukyuan king himself had to sign the document, as it was standard practice that the Dutch king would also sign it. The previous two Ryukyuan treaties had been signed only by the sôrikan and fuseikan, both of whom, unbeknownst to the Westerners, were quite low-ranking and were hardly even "real" government positions at all. All of this was done in order to protect the king, and the other more central / high-ranking sections of government, from any direct involvement in such matters.


  • Marco Tinello, "The termination of the Ryukyuan embassies to Edo : an investigation of the bakumatsu period through the lens of a tripartite power relationship and its world," PhD thesis, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (2014), 207-213.