Closed for ten years for major renovation Rijks Museum in Amsterdam reopened about two years ago accommodating a remarkable Rembrandt collection whose most prized painting, the “Night Watch” occupies an entire room. Besides several Vermeer and the remarkable Jan Steen and Frans Hals complete the Gallery of Honor.
Any national museum is the memory of a country and Rijks is the Netherlands’ memory taking you by the hand to explore the lands they explored and to see things as they saw it. The surprise was to find a model of Deshima (Dejima), the minuscule island (360 ft X 225 ft) and the only Dutch and foreign colony off the Nagasaki harbor, the only entrance and point of peeking of “the foreign devils” in a Japan paralyzed in the Edo shogunate, but also the only avenue through which Japan could know at that time what was happening in the world. The cannons pointing to the island may have been put there by convenience of the floor arrangement but they were symptomatic of the utmost fear incurred by the Shogunate against the foreign ideas, ready at any moment to blow the island with its inhabitants and ideas away. The island is described in detail in the David Mitchell’s book “The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet”, a remarkable foray in the relative recent history of Japan.