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About 400 years trading relations Japan - NL: 1609-2009

1934: Label of first Océ Diazo products sold through a partnership with Sakurai

In 2009, the Netherlands and Japan will celebrate 400 years of bilateral trading relations which began when the Japanese Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu granted the Dutch East India Company a permit to establish a permanent trading post. This trade permit signaled the first official agreement between our two countries (see also 'History' on the right). Four centuries after the trade permit was issued, bilateral trade, investments, technological co-operation and cultural exchange have continued to contribute to the flourishing Dutch-Japanese relations which so happily exist today.


In 1607, 13 ships of the Dutch East India Company under the command of Admiral Pieter Willemsz. Verhoeven left Texel for a voyage to the Orient. In 1609, two of these ships ('De Roode Leeuw met Pijlen' and 'Griffioen') arrived in the Japanese fishing village of Hirado with a letter from Stadtholder Prince Maurice of Nassau. In his letter, the Prince requested permission from Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu to establish a permanent trading post in Japan. Led by Melchior van Santvoort, a Dutchman who arrived in Japan on the ship 'Liefde' in 1600, Abraham van den Broeck and Nicolaes Puyck - envoys of the Dutch East India Company - set off on a diplomatic mission to the capital city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo), bearing gifts and the letter from Prince Maurice. The delegation was received favorably and, on 24 August 1609, the Shogun issued the trade permit. A month later, the establishment of the Dutch trading post in Hirado ushered in a period of more than two centuries during which the Netherlands was the only Western country permitted to conduct business in isolationist Japan. Until the end of Japan's policy of seclusion in the mid-19th century, the Netherlands served as Japan's 'window to the West' and Dutch expertise in fields such as navigation and medicine was subject to intense study.

1934: Océ director Karel van der Grinten with the Sakurai family

About 75 years partnership Japan-Océ N.V.: 1934-2009

In August 1934 Karel van der Grinten, traveled to Japan and established the first commercial relationship with a company in Japan: the Sakurai organization in Tokyo. Sakurai initially objected considerably to being obliged to use the Océ brand name- . Océ was too close to "Oshi" which means ‘deaf’ in Japanese. Over time the relationship grew and Sakurai began to show considerable interest in the Rétocé products, and even wanted to manufacture Rétocé materials itself. However, the Second World War broke out and all contacts with Sakurai ceased. After the war the three van der Grinten brothers wondered if the company should consider the pursue of business in Japan Registering patents and partnerships was an extremely drawn out and costly business. In 1953 Frans Kessels, who in those days was head of patents at Océ, wrote in a letter to Karel van der Grinten that Océ had to consider if it would ever be worthwhile to register patents in Japan. In the meantime many other organizations had shown interest in selling Océ products in Japan.

Karel van der Grinten and Shiro Sakurai and spouses in Venlo at Océ HQ

In 1955 Océ signed an agreement with Ricoh. Ricoh marketed Océ Diazo products for the offset market. Quite soon afterwards Bunshodo joined the relationship between Océ and Bruning, Océ licensee in the USA, being able to achieve more for Océ in Japan than any Japanese organization. Bunshodo sold almost the entire Océ product range in the Japanese market. Bunshodo enjoyed considerable success with the Océ 105 and Océ 106, both low volume copying machines based on the diazo principle. Bunshodo also succeeded in selling the Océ 281 within the Repro market. When Océ developed its digital line of large format products, a partnership with Shacoh brought the Océ 9800 to the Japanese market in 1996. Through this partnership Océ was able to successfully gain market share in the high volume large format reprographic market in Japan.

About 10 years Anniversary Océ Japan

In May 1999 Océ took a majority shareholding (85%) in NS Calcomp Corporation in Tokyo. The name was immediately changed into Océ Japan Corporation. The company owned three sales/service offices outside of Tokyo. This is how Océ started in the land of the rising sun, where competitors had much stronger market positions. Today Océ Japan employs around 100 professionals in the large format printing market and has gradually grown the market share of Océ products year on year. Océ Japan serves its major customers through its direct sales and service organization and Océ Japan has succeeded in maintaining its tradition in working with partners to cover the Japanese market. Among Océ Japan’s most successful partners are companies like FujiFilm Graphic Systems, Otsuka, Canon Marketing Japan, Fujitsu and Kimoto. Océ Japan has also maintained its historic partnerships with Sakurai and Shacoh.

1934: Karel van der Grinten (right) in Japan

About Océ

Océ is one of the world's leading providers of document management and printing for professionals. The broad Océ offering includes office printing and copying systems, high speed digital production printers and wide format printing systems for both technical documentation and color display graphics. Océ is also a foremost supplier of document management outsourcing. Many of the world’s Fortune 500 companies and leading commercial printers are Océ customers. The company was founded in 1877. With headquarters in Venlo, the Netherlands, Océ is active in over 90 countries and employs some 23,000 people worldwide. Total revenues in 2008 amounted to € 2,9 billion. Océ is listed on Euro next in Amsterdam. For more information on Océ, visit

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