The Dutch too are coming,
To see the flowers blossom,
Saddle my horse
阿蘭陀も 花に来にけり 馬に鞍
Oranda mo/ hana ni ki ni keri/ uma ni kura
A Close Encounter of a Dutch Kind
In a closed society (sakoku, 鎖国), as Japan was, strangers would elicit a curious look.
The Dutch with their bearded faces and yellow hair would have been doubly strange to the Japanese. Not quite a close encounter of a third kind, but alien no less.
Since 1633, the Shogun in Edo had banned foreigners from entering Japan and Japanese from traveling abroad. Only the Dutch were permitted a trading post in Nagasaki harbor on the small island of Deshima (Dejima). The island was ” 82 ordinary steps in width and 236 in length through the middle,” according to Engelbert Kaempfer who spent two years there with the Dutch East India Company. The Japanese were still curious about western ways and each spring, the Dutch brought tribute to the Shōgun in Edo, bringing news of the world and bearing gifts: weapons, clocks, telescopes, medicines and rare animals.
It must have been quite a spectacle.
[From Engelbert Kaempfer: The History of Japan (1727), based on observations made between 1690 and 1692 with the Dutch East India Company. Image Wikipedia.]
The Dutch trip to Edo occurred in April when Japan was in the midst of its Hanami festival (花見, flower viewing festival). We associate this festival with the well-known cherry blossoms (桜 sakura), but they would have also included flowering plum.
Notes on translation
阿蘭陀 Oranda, Holland, The Dutch
も mo, too, also
花 hana, flower
馬に鞍, uma ni kura, saddle my horse, literally put the saddle on my horse