Treaty of Peace and Amity (Dutch-Japan)

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  • Signed: 1856/1/4 (Feb 9)

The Dutch-Japanese Treaty of Peace and Amity signed in 1856 was the first formal treaty between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Japan, and the first commercial treaty Japan signed with any Western power.


Dutch East India Company (VOC) factor Jan Hendrik Donker Curtius served as interpreter and in several other capacities in the negotiations which resulted in the conclusions of treaties or conventions signed with the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom in 1854-1855, each of which promised the signatory Western power most favored nation status. Prominent figures in these negotiations, such as Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin, saw the conclusion of a treaty between Japan and the Dutch as inevitable, and indeed, as early as July 1855, Curtius proposed to the shogunate that the Dutch ship Soembing would be given to the shogunate as a royal gift, and that its crew would undertake to provide Japanese sailors with modern naval training and the like, but only as part of a formal commercial treaty.

A formal treaty proposal came on 1855/7/26 (Sept 7), and as the shogunate was eager to receive this military training, a preliminary agreement was reached only a few months later, on 1855/9/30 (Nov 9). After some minor revisions, it was signed as a formal treaty on 1856/1/4 (Feb 9).

As Nagasaki-based metsuke Nagai Naomune began consulting Curtius immediately on 1855/9/30 (Nov 9) as to his advice on a variety of economic and other policy matters, taking the advice in writing to be used in petitioning the rôjû, historian Mitani Hiroshi identifies this treaty as marking an important shift in Japanese attitudes on foreign relations, from seeking to maintain sakoku as strictly as possible (albeit with some limited concessions), to seeking a way for Japan to move forward in "opening" the country while ensuring the survival of its independence, its national polity, and economy.

Treaty Provisions

Though this was Japan's first formal modern commercial treaty, in fact for the most part it simply reaffirmed the system already in place, in which Dutch trade at Nagasaki was controlled by a shogunal government office known as the Nagasaki kaisho. Other provisions in the treaty were chiefly concerned with the privileges, freedoms, and treatment of Dutch nationals in Japan.

The treaty elevated the VOC factor to "Netherlands government commissioner" and granted him formal status as a resident consul. Curtius' requests for articles stipulating freedom of religion and the right to own land were denied, and most favored nation status was limited mostly to the opening of the ports of Hakodate and Shimoda to Dutch ships, as they had been to American, British, and Russian vessels. Dutch citizens in Japan were granted extraterritoriality, and were granted freer freedom of movement within a certain area in/around the port of Nagasaki.[1]


  • Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), 260-262.
  1. Freedom of movement was granted to American, British, Dutch, and Russian citizens within areas of seven and five ri square at Shimoda and Hakodate respectively.