Nikko — Yokohama, 22 August 1893

As the merciless railway administration had been only willing to provide a special train at no other hour than at 5 o’clock in the morning, we had to get out of bed early to say good-bye to Nikko. At 11 o’clock in the morning we were back at the station of Yokohama which rises in the North-east of the city on land reclaimed from the sea.

Situated like Tokyo in the province of Musashi, it has grown to its current importance out of an unimportant settlement on the West side of the Tokyo bay. Since it had been declared a treaty port in 1859, it thus was opened up for trade with Europe and America. The glory to have breached the system of isolation from foreign trade inaugurated by Ieyasu and enlarged by his nephew Iemitsu belongs to the Americans and especially to Commodore Perry’s expedition in 1854 that ended with the opening of the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate for American trade. Since then Kobe, Osaka, Nagasaki, Hakodate, Niigata and Yokohama have been opened overall as treaty ports and for settlement by foreigners so that the latter settle here in specially designated city quarters and are allowed to travel in the surrounding area of nearly 40 km without special permits.

Instead of Yokohama, by the way, at first Kanagawa, a bit to the North, had been designated as a treaty port but was replaced by Yokohama because of Kanagawa’s location on the Tokaido and thus the thereby always threatening conflicts between the foreigners and the samurai entourage of the traveling daimyos. Yokohama today plays the principal part among the treaty ports as the junction of all steam ship lines that connect Japan to Europe on the one hand and America on the other hand, as a destination for nearly all warships that enter Japan and numerous trading ships and coastal vessels of all kind.

Yokohama, counting 143.000 inhabitants, is quite rightly the point of contact of Japan with the West and the East, the point of entry and departure of trade. This is the reason for the international character of the city which is expressed both externally and in its population.

A quay road built at considerable cost runs alongside the harbor. Custom houses and other mercantile establishments like depots and loading docks serve trade. Nearly 3 km wide extends the foreign settlement in the harbor which has been rebuilt after a fire in 1866 larger and more beautiful, criss-crossed by broad well tended streets and containing residential houses, banks, offices, clubs, hotels and consulates. Numerous foreigners, by the way, only have set up their business location in Yokohama while they have built their residences in a crescent-shaped hill range called Bluff to the West of the city in order to breathe sylvan air and enjoy the beautiful view upon the harbor.

The predominant population are naturally the Japanese but the colony of foreigners, mostly Englishmen and Americans. is large enough to be noticeable in the streets as a leading factor of urban life, so that during a stroll through the city one meets foreigners everywhere, not in the least the sailors landing from the warships who look for relief from the deprivations of long sea voyages.

Even though I had requested to spend my time in Yokohama Incognito and thus to forgo the Japanese entourage, the rickshaw I used to wander through Yokohama and do some shopping was followed immediately by he police prefect, a police official and two reporters which caused understandable commotions in the streets. After other attempts to get rid of this entourage had been in vain, I sought help by using a ruse by going to the Grand Hotel, breakfast there and then leave by the small rear door and take another rickshaw. But the pleasure of the liberty won did not last long. The police soon had been on my tracks and finally arrived at full pace, so that I could only call Sannomiya on the phone. He was soon on the spot and freed me from the undesired entourage. Barely a quarter of an hour later, the procession had again assembled like shadows following my heels. I even believe to have observed that one among the entourage was writing down carefully every object that I bought. Finally I rushed on board not without enjoying the company of a police official following me in a barge.

For the acquisition of those objects I was looking for, Yokohama was not quite an enjoyable place. Even though the number of shops is legion, it was quite difficult to find something matching my tastes which had apparently been developed and refined by the stay in the actual factories of the Japanese art industry, namely in Kyoto. Yokohama’s shops are filled with curiosities in the true sense which is targeted towards the foreigners, especially the Americans who are only seeking to buy some characteristic objects of the country and whose demands have apparently not been quite so beneficial for the local production.

When I offered my opinion to some merchants, they admitted the correctness of the observation but added that it was precisely the mediocre goods if they are only large, colorful even loud and quite baroque that made them bestsellers for America and also for England, while the stylish, discrete and tasteful and thus more valuable objects are little sought.

In the evening I had invited some of the gentlemen of our embassy as well as the Japanese entourage to a dinner on board where songs from home made all guests merry.

Links

  • Location: Yokohama, Japan
  • ANNO – on 22.08.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Der fliegende Holländer“.

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