The Portuguese were the first Europeans to enter Japan. But the Japanese didn't appreciate at all their Christian religious zeal, and they were swiftly kicked out. The Dutch, who came a bit later, were only interested in business. Nothing else.
So, in 1609 a Dutch trading post was established in Japan, upon invitation of shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The start of a special and long lasting relation between the two countries. Until 1854 the Dutch settlement at Dejima, in the bay of Nagasaki, was Japan's only opening to the west.
So for a couple hundred years the Japanese decided to live in perfect isolation from the West, only acquiring from the Dutch what they thought was relevant for them. Until 4 American warships sailed uninvited into the bay of Tokyo in 1853, and broke the country open.
More on the Dutch trade post in Nagasaki bay (plus interesting pictures of how the Japanese saw the Dutch) : see Wikipedia on Dejima.
For the incredible, but true story of William Adams, an English sailor and one of the few survivors of the first Dutch vessel reaching Japan, click here. The man later became the first European Samurai.
When you visit Holland, and are interested in Japanese - Dutch history and art, also visit the beautiful old city of Leiden. Only half hour by train from Amsterdam, or 20 minutes from Schiphol Airport.
Leiden was Holland's second city in the 17th century, with the first and most prestigious university at the time. Which explains why an immense amount of knowledge, Japanese history and art has been accumulated here. Like for example in the fabulous SieboldHuis, a museum that is also very active in informing about Japan today. (website in Dutch / English / Japanese)