History is my hobby, especially that of the interface between Japan and the outside world. That is why some years ago I started an annual commemoration of a young Dutchman who had played a part in opening Japan in the 19th century but who had since faded into obscurity. This was the start of what was to become the Dead Dutchman Society of Tokyo.
The young Dutchman was Henry Heusken, the secretary to the first US ambassador to Japan, Townsend Harris. Henry, who had a significant role in many diplomatic negotiations between the western powers and Japan, was murdered by dissident antiforeigner samurai in Tokyo in January 1861.
In those mid-19th century days, the European powers and the USA were trying to persuade the Japanese to open up to trade and commerce after more than 200 years of seclusion. During that two-century isolation from the rest of the world, the only Europeans allowed into Japan were the Dutch, who had maintained a trading post in Nagasaki.