Buried at the other side of the bay (from 1655)

Buried at the other side of the bay (from 1655)
Articles: Dutch Cemetery

In 1641 the Dutch were forced to move from Hirado to Nagasaki and lost their privilige to bury their dead on land. Those who died were buried at sea instead. In October 1654 the Dutch were finally given permission to bury their dead on land again, but it still took almost a year before the first body was actually interred in a grave.

On 7 October 1655, it appeared that a seaman from the ship Anjelier (Carnation), which was lying in the harbour, had been missing for two days. The individual in question was the 19-year-old Jacob Heijndricksen from Hoorn and the next day his body floated to the surface next to the ship. That day, Winnincx wrote in his journal that this was the first time they had had to ask the interpreters to put the permission to bury the dead on land into practice.[1] However, since it was a Japanese festival, the interpreters were not able to speak to the Governor about it. Permission was given on 9 October and two Dutch people were permitted to attend the funeral. Winnincx related that they did not bury the dead man in the Japanese manner, in an urn, but in a coffin. The junior merchant Hogenhouck, a bookkeeper from the Anjelier and three banjoosten took the body to the other side of the bay. On their return, Hogenhouck and the bookkeeper said that it had been buried to the west of Dejima in a very beautiful spot called Inasa. According to them, the site belonged to the steward or bailiff of the domains of Nagasaki and there were Chinese graves there. The Japanese had covered the grave with stones and grass and a cypress had been planted in the middle. Winnincx thanked the Japanese with some pieces of silver and also had his thanks passed on to the Governor. This greatly improved the reputation of the VOC in Japan because, after all, burial at sea was normally the punishment meted out to thieves and vagabonds.

The second burial took place almost a year later, at the end of August 1656. Hans van der Heijde, able-bodied seaman on the ship Arnhem, died in the night of 25-26 August. Chief factor Boucheljon received permission for the funeral the very same day. The banjoosten then removed the coffin from the ship and it was subsequently taken to Inasa in the presence of a senior surgeon and an assistant (a clerk who assisted the chief merchant). Boucheljon also reports in his journal that the cemetery was near a Japanese temple. Another death followed, in September, on the ship Koning David (King David). This seaman was also buried at Inasa, this time in the presence of four Dutch people.

Later funerals sometimes took place in the presence of the entire workforce of the trading post. Some funerals, such as those of rather more notable people, were also attended by the Governor's representatives. One example was chief factor Van Lier, who died on 17 August 1662. His successor Indijck recounts that, on 18 August, between four and five o'clock in the afternoon, Van Lier's body was carried by the junior merchant and the assistants from the island through the town to a barge. All the other employees from the trading post accompanied them, as did the interpreters, several banjoosten and other Japanese people. The barge was sailed over the bay to the cemetery where, as Indijck puts it, a decent funeral took place. When, in August 1684, Besselman, who was to become chief factor, passed away, the Governor was asked whether he could be buried with honours. A striking point in the entry in the journal was that, after the funeral, permission was requested for the placing of a gravestone. This may have been the first time that the Dutch had ever made such a request.

The numbers

After the first burial at Inasa in 1655, many were to follow. A list of more than 700 people who were buried at Inasa or, as the chief factors often put it in their journals 'on the other side of the bay' has been drawn up on the basis of VOC journals and other sources (see bibliography). Entering all the available information into a database has yielded various interesting details about the cemetery. It was possible to determine the month and year of death of 726 people. There were 113 in the 17th century, 588 in the 18th century and another 43 in the 19th century, a number of Russians and 3 English people being among the latter. Most of the graves are from the 18th century and from the second half in particular. We are, as yet, unable to explain this. The journals that have been translated do not contain all the details and it is not clear whether all the chief factors reported all the deaths.

The information available does, however, indicate that there was a yearly peak in deaths in the months August, September and October, when the ships lay in the harbour. A total of 584 deaths (amounting to 80% of all the deaths known) were documented for those three months alone. An examination of the deaths among VOC employees on Dejima yields a total of 79, including 30 'black servants' or slaves.

The current cemetery versus the number of people buried

The oldest gravestone at the cemetery dates from 1777 and is that of Jan Schuts, bookkeeper on Dejima, but it is barely legible. This brings us to the question of whether there were not, at some stage, older gravestones, as suggested by Indijck's comment in 1684. After all, one of the graves involved was that of a chief factor. In her publication of 2016, Van der Eb argues[2] that it is unlikely that there were ever more gravestones at the cemetery than those currently present. This probably applies to what is now the walled Dutch Cemetery because it is practically inconceivable that more than 700 Dutch people found their last resting place on this tiny piece of land. As the map shows, the way the gravestones currently present have been laid out does not seem very logical but it does not look as though the situation has changed much since Duurkoop's funeral in 1778. The current cemetery measures a total of 265 m2, divided into two terraces. If the mortal remains of two people were buried in each grave, each grave having a surface area of 16 m2, there would be space to bury 330 people. However, nothing indicates that more than one body was buried in each grave. At any rate, this is not mentioned anywhere. It would seem more likely that the Dutch were initially buried on a much larger site and that[3] the current cemetery was only demarcated, near the graves of Schuts, Duurkoop and a few others who were buried here afterwards, around 1840. But we can only guess, because there is unfortunately nothing at all left of the cemetery's old archives. The temple escaped the conventional bombardments of the Second World War relatively unscathed. The atom bomb that was dropped on Nagasaki in 1945 only caused slight damage to the temple and cemetery. However, it was not long after the explosion that a black rain fell on the temple, damaging and contaminating it and everything in it such that everything had to be disposed of anyway. The records were completely destroyed. Consequently, we have to rely mainly on the journals that the chief factors kept for historical data about the cemetery.

The 'Hollandsche Begraafplaats'The 'Hollandsche Begraafplaats' (photo Leon Bok, 2016)

The towns from which many of those who died came were named in the translated journals, so that it is possible to trace their backgrounds to a certain extent. Of the 726 people listed, the origins of 340 were found. Of these, the countries of origin (as we know them today) of 289 people were traceable. A total of 57% of these 289 people came from a town in the Netherlands and 20% from Germany. Approximately 4% came from Belgium, often called Flanders or Wallonia at the time, and 8% came from the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark). Towns in Poland, France, Indonesia, Italy and England were also named. On one occasion, a seaman from New York was listed.

'Seaman' was the most common and practically lowest rank in the fleet and the conditions under which seamen lived were considerably worse than those of the rest of the crew. It is therefore not surprising that most of the victims of illness and exhaustion came from this group. Although many of them survived the voyage, they ultimately died in the hospital or simply on the ship as it lay in the harbour. The professions of 674 of the deceased have been established, that of 'seaman' scoring by far the highest on the list, with 64%. In theory, all ranks and classes were eligible for a final resting place on the mainland, including slaves. But, like the seamen, they will not have been given a monument, given that the costs of any such memorial would have to have been paid for out of the deceased's own income. The mortal remains of a total of three chief factors were also buried at Inasa: Van Lier in 1662, Besselman (who was to be appointed as chief factor) in 1684 and Duurkoop in 1778. Only the latter is known to have had a funerary monument.

In most cases, the cause of death was illness, exhaustion or an accident, although a number died from drowning. This was, for example, the fate of the very first person to be buried at Inasa, Jacob Heijndricksen. Such fatalities usually involved seamen who fell overboard in the dark or as a result of an accident during mooring. A few of the people buried at Inasa are reported to have died en route to Dejima, which was the case with Duurkoop, for example. For the most part, these were higher officers whose bodies were placed in coffins to await burial at Inasa. Diseases such as smallpox, oedema and dysentery are occasionally explicitly stated and there is also mention of a victim who was murdered.

The workforce on Dejima was small throughout the year; sporadically someone died who was subsequently buried at Inasa. Most of the dead were buried when ships arrived from other trading posts, which was usually in the autumn. In good trading years, several ships arrived, some with hundreds aboard. The number of dead could rise dramatically but in some years there were few burials, if any. This was the case in the 1790s when the republic was at war with England and the trade suffered drastically as a result. In some years there was not even enough cargo to fill a large ship or no ships came at all, as was the case in 1796. In other years, merchant vessels were hired from other countries to get around the English blockades. In 1797, for example, the Japanese has to be reassured because a ship had arrived with a partly black crew who did not even speak Dutch. Burials were hardly mentioned in the journals written in these years.


'Inasa', named after the mountain on the slopes of which the cemetery is located, is frequently mentioned in the chief factors' journals. As we have already said, it is simply not possible that the more than 700 people who are known to have died in the period studied were buried on the tiny piece of land that now forms the Dutch Cemetery. On the basis of her research, Van der Eb claims that the cemetery had its current size in the mid-19th century. She concludes this from a photograph from 1865, along with other sources. Van der Eb also wonders how that many people could have been buried on such a small piece of land. The assumption that graves were cleared and used again with the passage of time appears unfounded. The journals make absolutely no mention of this and Van der Eb does not put forward any sources to substantiate it, either.

Gateway, built in 1918Gateway, built in 1918 (photo Leon Bok, 2016)

As has been stated earlier, it is plausible that, after 1840, a wall was built around the part of the cemetery that was clearly intended for the last burials. This wall was built of natural stone, as can be seen on a photograph taken by Dr A.F. Bauduin who visited the cemetery in 1865 (page 81). Bauduin was the medical director of the hospital in Nagasaki and also a naval doctor. When he arrived in Japan, his younger brother Albertus J. Bauduin was chief of the branch of the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (Dutch Trading Company) on Dejima.[4] In 1918, the old wall around the cemetery was replaced by a brick wall, which is probably the one that still stands today. The top was later covered with reinforced concrete. The current gateway, with the inscription 'Hollandsche begraafplaats (Dutch Cemetery)' in the top lintel, was also constructed at the same time. A wooden gate was originally hung in the entrance, but this was replaced with an iron gate after the Second World War.

More research

All in all, the secret of the tiny Dutch Cemetery will remain undisclosed unless additional research is carried out. It is likely that the area where the Dutch were buried was larger before the 19th century. It may later have been taken into use by the Japanese for their own funerary monuments. After all, in Japan, mortal remains are not buried in the ground but cremated and the ashes entombed or laid to rest in an above-ground monument. This means that remains in the ground are not disturbed. There is a strip of land measuring more than 20 metres between the Chinese Cemetery and the Dutch Cemetery that has now been filled up with funerary monuments for Japanese families and a part where priests of the temple and their families are buried. Who knows what is under all that?


Map of the cemetery and list of monuments.


  • Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Nederlandse Factorij in Japan, nummer toegang 1.04.21, inventarisnummers 103
  • Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Nederlandse Factorij in Japan, nummer toegang 1.04.21, inventarisnummers 104
  • Nationaal Archief, Den Haag, Nederlandse Factorij in Japan, nummer toegang 1.04.21, inventarisnummers 109
  • Blussé, L., Velde, P. en Viallé, C.; The Deshima dagregisters: Their original tables of contents, Vol. VIII: 1760-1780. lntercontinenta; no. 19. Leiden: Centre for the History of European Expansion, 1995
  • Blussé, L. en Viallé, C.; The Deshima dagregisters: their original tables of contents, Vol. XII, 1650-1660. lntercontinenta; 25. Leiden: lnstitute for the History of European Expansion, 2005
  • Blussé, L., Remmelink, W.G.J. en Japan-Netherlands lnstitute, The Deshima diaries, Marginalia, 1740-1800. Tokyo: The Japan-Netherlands lnstitute, 2004
  • Blussé, Leonard en Viallé, Cynthia, The Deshima dagregisters, Volume XI 1641-1650, Leiden 2001
  • Eb-Brongersma, Titia van der; De Hollandsche Begraafplaats in Nagasaki. Een cultuurhistorisch erfgoed, Oegstgeest 2016
  • Miyanaga, Takashi; Brief notes concerning Dutch gravestones in Japan. – the names of Dutchmen buried in the graveyards of Japanese temples and in foreign cemeteries in Japan (1621-1982), Tokyo 1988
  • Neve, R.G. de; 'Overlijdensakten van te Deshima overladen Nederlanders', in: De Indische Navorser, jaargang 6, 1993.
  • Velde, Paul van der; The Deshima Dagregisters. Their original tables of contents, Volume IV 1710-1720; Intercontinenta; no. 11, Leiden, 1989
  • Velde, Paul van der en Ton Vermeulen; The Deshima Dagregisters. Their original tables of contents, Volume III, 1700-1710; Intercontinenta; no. 19, Leiden, 1990
  • Velde, Paul van der; The Deshima Dagregisters. Their original tables of contents, Volume V 1720-1730; Intercontinenta; no. 14, Leiden, 1990
  • Velde, Paul van der; The Deshima Dagregisters. Their original tables of contents, Volume VI, 1730-1740; Intercontinenta; no. 16, Leiden, 1991
  • Velde, Paul van der; The Deshima Dagregisters. Their original tables of contents, Volume VII, 1740-1760; Intercontinenta; no. 18, Leiden, 1993
  • Vermeulen, Ton; The Deshima Dagregisters. Their original tables of contents, Volume I, 1680-1690; Intercontinenta no. 6, Leiden 1986
  • Valentyn, François; Beschrijving van ‘t Nederlandsch Comptoir op de Kust van Malabar, en van onzen Handel in Japan, mitsgaders een Beschrijving van Kaap der Goede Hoope en ’t Eyland Mauritius, Met de zaaken tot de voornoemde Ryken en Landen behoorende, Dordrecht/Amsterdam 1726



[1] Winnincx's journal, 8 October 1655.

[2] Eb-Brongersma, Titia van der; De Hollandsche Begraafplaats in Nagasaki. Een cultuurhistorisch erfgoed (The Dutch Cemetery in Nagasaki. A cultural historical heritage), Oegstgeest 2016.

[3] Please refer to the thorough study carried out by Van der Eb in which she compares various sources.

[4] J.E. Veldman, 'Chirurgie van de roodharige barbaren'; Hollandse medici in Japan, 1600-1870 (Surgery of the red-haired barbarians; Dutch physicians in Japan, 1600-1870) in: Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd (Netherlands Journal of Medicine). 2001; 145:2542-7.


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