Oranda Shogatsu (Dutch New Year Celebration in Japan) (オランダ正月)

Oranda Shogatsu was a celebration of the new year on the first day of the new Solar year (the Gregorian calendar) by the Dutch who were living on Dejima, Nagasaki and by Rangakusha (a person who studied Western sciences by means of the Dutch language) in Edo (Tokyo) in the Edo period. It was also called 'New Year for red-heads'.

Oranda Shogatsu in Nagasaki

Originally, it was a tradition carried by the Dutch who were living in Japan at the Dutch trading house in Dejima, Nagasaki. The Dutch who were not allowed to celebrate Christmas, due to the ban on Christianity by the Edo Shogunate, had started the celebration as 'Dutch winter solstice' on the day of winter solstice and they invited Japanese people such as officers of the feudal government in Dejima, leaders of the island and interpreters of the language and treated them with western style food on the new Solar year's day in the similar manner as the Japanese New Year celebration. People in Nagasaki called this "Oranda Shogatsu" (Dutch New Year Celebration). Then this extended to similar style parties at houses of Japanese people such as interpreters in Nagasaki. In the "Nagasaki Meisho Zue" (Encyclopedia of Nagasaki scenic beauty) book of 1818 - 1829, there were some menus recorded which included meat dishes such as beef, pork and duck, ham, fish cooked in butter, Dutch sponge cake and coffee; but most guests of Japanese officials took them back home without eating them on the spot.

Oranda Shogatsu at Shiran-do in Edo (School of Dutch Study in Tokyo)

The house of Kogu YOSHIO (Kozaemon), who was an interpreter in the mid Edo period, had furniture imported from the Netherlands upstairs and was called 'the Dutch house' where also had animals and plants from the country and was a famous tourist spot in Nagasaki. Kogu had many pupils not only interpreters but also scholars all over the country, therefore he had an Oranda Shogatsu party on the first day of the new Solar year. Gentaku OTSUKI who was a Rangaku scholar in Edo and was in a leading position in the area participated in the Oranda Shogatsu party in the western room of the Yoshio family and was very impressed.

All the Kapitans (curators of Dutch trading house) had an obligation to visit Edo regularly and Gentaku OTSUKI met a Dutch for the first time when Gisbert HEMMIJ visited there. Gentaku took this opportunity to have a Shingenkai (New Year's party) at Shiran-do school which was in his house in Mizutani-cho, Kyobashi with many Rangaku scholars and people who liked Dutch things because leap November 11 in that year fell on January 2, 1795. Kodayu DAIKOKUYA, who was a castaway in the Russian Empire, was also invited.

This was the start of Oranda Shogatsu in Edo. The first Oranda Shogatsu in Edo was known from the painting of Kozan ICHIKAWA of Tsu Domain "Shiran-do Shingenkai zu" (Shiran-do New Year Party) with messages and signatures of the participants and it showed their enjoyment on the day. On a large desk, there were wine glasses, knives and forks and some western style paintings were decorated on the wall. Other participants were Genpaku SUGITA and Genzui UDAGAWA who were Gentaku's teachers and already famous for the translation of "Kaitai Shinsho" (the historic Japanese translation of a Dutch anatomical text).

As a background to Oranda Shogatsu, Yoshimune TOKUGAWA, the eighth Seii Taishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader) lifted the ban partially on the import of the western books, which triggered the increasing of Dutch studies and Dutch devotees, called Ranpeki who adored Dutch cultures. In addition to those Ranpeki's pursuit of foreign goods, and the fact that the new academic subject of Rangaku became widely accepted, the party was held from those time, not being tied to traditional Japanese New Year events, but as the place for the scholars to get together and exchange the latest information to increase their knowledge.

However, because the gap in dates between the lunar-solar calendar such as the Kansei calendar which was in use at those time in Japan and the Western Gregorian calendar differed every year, for convenience sake, it became an annual event to have a party for Oranda Shogatsu on the 11th day after the winter solstice (which fell on the same day on both calendars) since the following year. It is said that there were 44 celebrations for Oranda Shogatsu until the death of Banri OTSUKI, the son of Gentaku, in 1837.

[Original Japanese]