The Firsts in Japan from Yokohama, Part II

by Luke (Schneider) Oyama ’54
[Luke takes us through the history of Yokohama in this six part article – enjoy!]

– Part II – Streets Crossing Honcho-Dori

Yokohama Station to Sakuragicho AreaYoshidabashi Area – Bashamichi to Honcho-dori

The first horse carriages in Japan were used by the foreign consular for commuting between their consulates in Yokohama and the Edo Legation.
Bashamichi (literally, horse carriage street) was constructed in 1867 in response to requests from the Foreign Settlement.


20070305_ph01As traffic increased across the borderline between the Japanese and Foreign Settlement, Yoshidabashi, the bridge at the entrance of Isezakicho became an important checkpoint. It was an easily damageable wooden bridge, and so the government decided to have it replaced with one made of steel. Under the supervision of the English civil engineer, Richard H. Brunton, a steel bridge spanning 78 ft. (23.6m) with a width of 30 ft. (9.1m) was constructed in 1869. It was reconstructed to a ferro-concrete bridge in 1911. Iron for the steel bridge was imported from Shanghai. The traffic checking system to and from Foreign Settlement was abolished in 1871 but the toll charge for crossing the steel bridge continued for three more years till 1874. The Japanese syllables for “metal” and “money” are the same “kane” and it is said that the bridge was called “Kanenohashi” mainly because it was of a steel structure and also because of the toll charges.

Brunton believed and was confident that his bridge was the first steel bridge in Japan but it is claimed that a steel bridge designed by the Dutch engineer, F.L.N. Boegel had been built in Nagasaki a year earlier. This bridge in Nagasaki is non-existent at present.

Facing Bashamichi from the entrance of Isezakicho to the right of the present day bridge is a monument with an inscription, “Historic Site of the Yoshidabashi Checkpoint” which was set up in 1954 to commemorate the centennial of the opening of Japan.

20070305_ph02On the other side of the bridge to the left underneath the elevated train lines are two sign plates for the steel bridge. The writing is careful not to say, “The First Steel Bridge” but indicates that it was “The First Truss Structured Steel Bridge of Japan”.

The right side is a “Brunton and Yokohama Memorial” which records his various contributions to Japan. The riverbed of Ohokagawa which flowed below was reclaimed for construction of Yokohama-Haneda Expressway. in 1973

The bridge now is its sixth reconstruction
There is a bust of Brunton at the Nihon Odori entrance of Yokohama Park. (cf. Nihon-Odori)



20070305_ph04Passing under the trains and adjacent to the Brunton memorial there is a small lot known as the Bashimichi-hiroba which extend to the Onoecho crossing of Bashamichi.

In this square is a memorial indicating the birthplace of modern tree-lined streets set up in 1979 to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama.

In 1867, every shop-owner alongside Bashamichi planted willows and pines in front of their shops. This led to the modernization of tree-lined streets unlike those of the approach to the shrines or other country roadsides.






Present day Bashamichi is lined by 74 elm and 2 dogwood trees.



20070305_ph06There was a member of a delegation to the United States on the Kanrin-Maru, the first Japanese ship that crossed the Pacific in 1860, who tasted ice cream for the first time in his life, and he was so impressed that he decided to spread this exquisite nicety in Japan. The man was Fusazo Machida and he opened a shop for “flavored ice” at Bashamichi in 1869. He named his shop, Hyousuiten (shop for iced water) which he thought most suitable for what he was selling, and called his delicacy “ice-crin”, the closest phonetics of what he believed he had heard. His business flourished and with the spreading of “ice-crin” in Japan, its nomenclature was used as a habitual synonym for “ice cream” up until early 1950’s when gradual rectification to the correct pronunciation “ice cream” saturated as result of the U.S. Occupation Forces after World War II.

For ten years until L. Stornebrink (refer Ice Making Plant below) started his ice making plant in Yokohama, Machida had natural ice delivered to him from Hakodate in Hokkaido for his hand churning process of making ice cream.

There now stands a ” Mother and Child of the Sun”monument designed by the sculptor, Shin Hongo and constructed in 1976 by the Kanagawa Chapter of Japan Ice Cream Association right opposite the actual location of the shop “Hyousuiten” in front of Art Building on Bashamichi.



Renjo Shimo-oka learned the art of photography from Henry C.J. Heusken, a Dutch and interpreter for the first U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Townsend Harris. After much endeavors he opened his first studio in Noge but later moved to Benten-dori in1862. Then in 1868 he once again moved his studio; this time to Bashamichi.
In commemoration of his Bashamichi studio, a monument, reading “In Memory of Renjo Shimo-oka, Founder of Photography in Japan” was erected. It was designed by Mitsuaki Tanabe and is located in front of the Bashamichi Square Building.

Shimo-oka is known for photographing the fire which broke out on SS America while wharved in Yokohama harbor and for his success in night photography. He is also the founder of lithography in Japan. His works include the lithography of Iyeyasu Tokugawa.

Though unconfirmed, it is said that a photo studio was opened in Nagasaki at about the same time. No telling, which was the first.



20070305_ph08Street side gas lamps came into existence in 1872 when. Kaemon Takashima constructed them along streets from the vicinity of Kanagawa Prefectural Government building to Oe bridge, and through Bashamichi and Honcho streets with lamp posts imported from Glasgow, and with other parts being manufactured in Japan. Gas lamps appeared in the Foreign Settlement two years later and lighting started from Christmas Eve of that year.

Bashamichi is now lined with gas lamps brought in from the British Parliament, Victoria Tower, Trafalgar Square and Sheffield Park.

20070305_ph09In front of Yokohama Civic Cultural Hall (Kannai Hall) is a monument commemorating “First Gas Lamp of Japan” built in 1986 by Cooperative Association of Bashamichi Shopping Center. The designer was Naoyuki Kuniyoshi a municipal employee in the City Planning Department of Yokohama. The plate on the wall depicts of olden times Bashamichi

Nihon-Odori (Yokohama Park – Kaigan-dori)

20070305_ph10Nihon-odori was the first modern street in Japan. It was constructed as a border way between the Foreign Settlement and the Japanese community. There was a great fire in 1866 which burned down two thirds of the Japanese community and one fourth of the Foreign Settlement, and the street was intended to function as a firebreak between the two sectors. Designed by the British engineer, R. H. Brunton (cf. STEEL BRIDGE) the center roadway was 45ft (113.5m) wide lined with another 45ft (13.5m) walkway including a 30ft (9m) wide greenbelt. Brunton also played a central role in the design and 20070305_ph11construction of Yokohama Park, the foreign Settlement sewer system, and other elements of Yokohama municipal facilities. He is honored with his bust facing Nihon-Odori from Yokohama Park.


Osanbashi-dori and Yokohama Park Area


20070305_ph12In 1890, the first electric power plant with an output of 100 kilowatt hours serving 700 homes was built by Yokohama Kyodo Electric Light Company at the location right behind the YMCA building. A monument has been set up at the corner of the present day substation of Tokyo
Electric Company designating the site.



Ambulance service started with the Yamashita Fire Brigade establishing an emergency department in 1933 assigning two drivers and four nurses. They handled traffic accidents and fires. The same year this service spread to Nagoya and then to Tokyo the following year. The car used was a remodeled version of a 1926 white Cadillac.


In front of the site of the Fire Station which is now a parking lot for Yokohama Cultural

Information Center, is a plate set up in 1958designating the place of the “First Emergency Fire Brigade” In the same site are the ruins of the Fire Station’s water reservoir.



20070305_ph15Yokohama Hotel was opened in 1860 by the Dutchman, Capt. C.J. Huffnagel whose ship, “Nassau” was sold out to be used as a floating storage and thus had to land. It is recorded that prominent people such as the German botanist, Alexander Georg Gustav von Siebolt, the anarchist in exile, Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin, and the painter, Wilhelm Peter Bernhard Heine known for his “Landing of Cmdr. Perry in Yokohama” were among those who lodged there. It was burned down in 1867 to mark the closing of the hotel. Besides guest rooms there were the dining room, bar, billiard saloon, bowling alley and other social entertainment rooms

In front of restaurant “Kaori” exactly across Fire Station that used to be is a plate set up by the customers indicating the site where the hotel once stood and describing the history of Yokohama Hotel.

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