Turbulent Times: Dutch-Japanese relations and the last days of the Samurai (1853-1867)

Turbulent Times describes how the Dutch and Japanese navigated together through the mid-19th century: a time of great unrest and political and scientific changes, in which both countries assumed a new role on the world stage.

Decorative screens, swords, prints, paintings, photographs, maps and maritime objects make up the seven themes that reflect the relations between the Netherlands and Japan in the period between 1853 and 1867. The diversity of the objects, from 18 museums and collections, highlights the versatility of this exhibition.

A source of inspiration for this unique exhibition is Souvenir du Japon, a complete set of twenty colour lithographies that were donated to Japan Museum SieboldHuis in 2020. These prints are based on drawings and watercolours that Johan Maurits Count van Lynden made during the Dutch diplomatic mission to Japan in 1855. During this mission, the Netherlands donated the steamship Soembing to Japan. This marked the beginning of a modern Japanese naval fleet.

One of the seven themes of the exhibition is ‘gifts from the shogun’. As thanks for the gift of the Soembing, Japan gave the Netherlands an impressive collection of weapons and utensils. A few examples on display are spectacular swords and a magnificent two-piece decorative screen with plum blossoms. There is also a 19th-century samurai armour, hand made by Myōchin Munekane; a masterpiece made with costly gold brocade.

Major changes
Other themes in the exhibition are: The opening of Japan; treaty port Yokohama; exchange; conflict; and the fall of the samurai. These themes address the major changes that took place in Japan between 1853 and 1867. After the opening of the country in 1853, western ideas and knowledge flooded in. These had a major influence on the political playing field. On the one hand, the samurai warriors protested the presence of westerners, while on the other had there was an eagerness to follow the west and to modernize as quickly as possible.

Japan Museum SieboldHuis
Rapenburg 19
2311 GE Leiden

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10 AM – 5 PM