Tokyo's Ginza boulevard in the 1880s
Tokyo's Ginza boulevard in the 1880s.

Dutch Diplomats in Japan since 1860


1860-1868 (Ansei 7-Meiji 1)

After Jan Hendrik Donker Curtius had concluded a trade treaty with Japan, an intermediary period started. The lack of a solid Japan policy, resulted in the Netherlands making mostly ad hoc solutions. The Dutch government decided not to appoint a political envoy in Japan and in February 1860 (Ansei 7) replaced Donker Curtius with the colonial official J.K. de Wit, who was appointed Consul-General.

This was a confusing time. The consular system in Japan was not clearly defined, while the Netherlands hoped to retain a bit of the exceptional relationship of the past. However, as Japan was building new diplomatic contacts with other countries and the Dutch government showed little to no interest in Japan, it became increasingly clear that this was impossible. The influence of countries like Great Britain, the United States and France soon overshadowed that of the Netherlands.

Although Yokohama was quickly overtaking Nagasaki’s importance as a trading port, and other countries located their consulates and legations in Kanagawa, Yokohama and Edo (current Tokyo), the Dutch Consulate General remained on Dejima through 1863 (Bunkyu 3), when de Wit’s successor Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek transferred it to Yokohama.

De Graeff van Polsbroek was appointed Political Agent and Consul-General in 1863, and became Minister Resident in 1868 (Meiji 1), which started a new period in the diplomatic relationship between Japan and the Netherlands.

1860-1863 Jan Karel de Wit
1863-1868 Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek

1868-1941 (Meiji 1-Showa 16)

After the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Meiji Restoration started in 1868. This gave birth to a massive political and social transformation in Japan.

Between 1868 and 1901 (Meiji 34), Dutch diplomatic representatives in Japan were ranked Minister Resident. Afterwards, the rank was upgraded to Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.

1868–1870 Dirk de Graeff van Polsbroek
1870–1872 Frederik Philip van der Hoeven
1872–1878 (This source says 1873-) Wilhelm Ferdinand Heinrich von Weckerlin
1879-1880 Edmond Willem Ferdinand Wttewaall van Stoetwegen
1881–1889 Joannes Jacobus van der Pot
1890–1895 Count Dmitri Louis van Bylandt
1896–1901 Hannibal Casimir Johannes Testa
1901–1905 Baron Arthur Martin Désiré Sweerts de Landas Wyborgh
1905–1908 John Loudon
1908–1913 Jan Herman van Roijen
1914–1918 Baron Dirk van Asbeck
1919–1923 Andries Cornelis Dirk de Graeff
1923–1941 Jean Charles Pabst

Since 1946 (Showa 21)

Before WWII, diplomatic ranks expressed the world’s hierarchy of nations. Only great powers, close allies, and related monarchies sent ambassadors to each other. “Lesser nations” had legations and envoys.

This system was deeply ingrained. When Dutch diplomats in the 1930s suggested to upgrade the Dutch diplomatic mission in Japan to an embassy, the British king objected. There were too many ambassadors already, he insisted.

After the end of WWII in 1945 (Showa 20), this all changed. The United Nations decided that all sovereign states were of equal rank. Over the following decades, legations and envoys all over the world were slowly turned into embassies and ambassadors.

After three and a half centuries of bilateral relations between the two countries, the Dutch diplomatic mission in the Japanese capital finally became an embassy in 1952 (Showa 27). Petrus Ephrem Teppema became the first Dutch ambassador in Japan.1

1946–1948 Wybrandus Schilling
1948–1951 Hendrik Mouw
1951–1954 Petrus Ephrem Teppema
1953–1959 Otto Reuchlin
1960–1964 Nicolaas Arie Johannes de Voogd
1965–1967 Robert Hans van Gulik
1969–1971 Johan Quirijn Bas Backer
1971–1975 Theodore Paul Bergsma
1975–1978 Carl Dietrich Barkman
1978–1983 Johan Kaufmann
1983–1986 Louis Joachim Goedhart
1986–1992 Herman Christiaan Posthumus Meyjes
1992–1995 Roland van den Berg
1995–2001 Frans Paul Robert van Nouhuys
2001–2005 Egbert Frederik Jacobs
2005–2008 Alphons Clemens Maria Hamer
2008–2012 Philip de Heer
2012–2015 Radinck Jan van Vollenhoven
2015–2019 Aart Jacobi
2019–2023 Peter van der Vliet
2023– Marten Van den Berg


1 Poelgeest, L. van (1999). Japanse besognes. Nederland en Japan 1945-1975. Sdu Uitgevers, 130.


Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). Dutch Diplomats in Japan since 1860, From Dejima to Tokyo. Retrieved on December 7, 2023 (GMT) from

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