Here's something I spent the past few days working on as a little surprise: a map-profile of a Japan where the Dutch were a lot more lucky and powerful than in our reality. Some details here, though reflect certain tidbits about the Dutch presence in real life Japan (such as Nagasaki and the Napoleonic Wars).
Admittedly, this is a bit of an unexpected work, since this was an idea that came to mind one day (and explaining a bit why things have been a bit slow on the others). It's also a distant follow-up of sorts to my old Viceroyalty of Southern Japan map ([link]
) made last year and I could use this as a starting point for a story.
In any case, I hope you enjoy this little surprise!
*UPDATE* I made some last-minute tweaks to the map. Hope they're better this time around!
Some may consider the Dutch Far East, like the very existence of the Netherlands to be one of those great anomalies in history. If not for certain historical events and perhaps even some stroke of luck, it shouldn’t even exist at all. And yet centuries after the first Dutch sailors landed ashore this unusual colony has despite the odds flourished into a showcase of the Kingdom’s power in Asia. From the grand boulevards of Poort Willemstad (Nagasaki) to the canals of Nieuw Antwerpen (Osaka) and the preserved archaic wonders of Kyoto, it is also a center of diversity reflecting both European prestige and the persistent legacy of its past as part of Japan.
At first, the realm’s very survival, like the early days of Fort Zeelandia in Formosa was very uncertain. While the pioneers and merchants had the resources to challenge the feudal domains and their precious Samurai, they were initially forced to satisfy themselves with increasing their influence in Kyushu, driving away the occasional Spanish trader or Portuguese missionary. It wasn’t until the bloody and protracted Sekigahara Wars (named after the battle that had effectively put the Tokugawa clan in power) that the fledging Dutch East India Company (with government backing from Europe) took the initiative and secured as much of southern Japan as was feasible. In the process, the newcomers sought out (or in some cases “coerced”) sympathetic daimyo to guarantee both some sense of legitimacy and a reliable coalition of local allies. But it only after the Fall of Kyoto in 1621 that the advance finally came to a halt, hindered in part by an increasingly unified if exhausted enemy. Following the Treaty of Edo signed a year later, the conquered lands were officially consolidated as the Dutch Far East. Their local allies were “rewarded” by becoming protectorates under the Free Fiefdoms while the Shogunate was forced to formally relinquish its authority over its now-lost domains, although Kyoto would remain a sore point for centuries to come.
The years that followed would see it transition away from Company control to the homeland (albeit via the East Indies at first) and a small but growing influx of Dutch colonists (primarily traders, farmers and adventurers). Though the newcomers initially tried to use a modified version of the existing rigid classes (with the Dutch as the new Samurai and Merchant castes), this gradually faded over time as more either intermingled with the locals or sought to implement a more “European” society in place. But the most significant moment in the colony’s history happened towards the end of the 18th Century and well into the French Wars of Revolution in the early 19th. Groups of refugees from the East Indies, Cape Colonies (both “secured” by the British Empire) and as far away as their distant homeland (occupied by the French) began arriving in droves in what some were calling by then “the last Dutch Bastion.” Even after the Wars ended and the Netherlands restored to its former glory, this ultimately served to not only increase the number of Europeans and Mesties
in the Far East but also accelerate its development further. The result is in an increasingly prosperous and highly developed domain surpassing even the well-tailored facades of Batavia (what another world calls Jakarta). Already calls are being made to grant the colony Home Rule and equal footing as a constituent part of the Kingdom.
Beneath the surface however, tensions are simmering. The Tokugawa Shogunate to the north continues to bolster itself behind its isolationist (or Sakoku
) policy and expand north towards the Russian fringes despite being seemingly frozen in time. With rumors abound of the Shogun’s dealings with Russian and British agents as well as the Emperor-in-Exile’s growing clout in Edo, some are concerned that there’s more going on behind the scenes. Meanwhile in its borders, social unrest and grievances centuries in the making continue to boil. The remaining Shinto and Buddhist sects find themselves threatened by the encroaching reach of Christianity and other Western ideas. Many of full-blooded Japanese, despite increasing social equality find themselves split between embracing the Dutch way of life and returning to the ways of their “noble predecessors” (and embodied by their brethren across the border). And that is not yet even counting the complicated case of the Mesties
or the growing threat posed by the Russians, French, British and even Americans. Still, time will tell how all this would play out.
For now, it is more fitting to give a toast to this grand New Year. The Year of Our Lord 1900. May be it be a fine century…