The Firsts in Japan from Yokohama, Part III

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

– Part III – Chinatown

Chinatown Area

Since the opening of Japan to Western culture, there came traders, moneychangers, furniture makers, musical instrument makers, laundrymen, cooks, barbers, dressmakers, interpreters, accountants, servants, and other experienced Chinese from Shanghai and Canton who worked for the European traders for silk and marine products as they were more familiar with trading than the Japanese. These people came to live in a corner of the Foreign Settlement which now has turned to be the largest Chinatown in the world. Originally, there were the traders, sundries shops, moneychangers, cobblers, restaurants, barbers, and others but since the Great Earthquake and the Second World War it became more of a restaurant area serving Chinese food of different areas of their ancestors.


20070323_ph01Modern sewer system drawn fully by the Japanese was constructed under supervision of Zentaro Mita who was an engineer of Kanagawa Prefectural Office and who was one of the first graduates of Tokyo University. The system was constructed with egg shaped pipe made of brick and vitrified clay pipe in the Foreign Settlement. The seven trunk sewers and the 37 manholes were made of wedge shaped brick which were baked at the Tokyo Kosuge Prison. There is a preservation of one of the manholes of this sewer system constructed in 1862 at the small lot beside Kaigan Church. Apart of these pipe made of brick are still in use near the South Gate of China town. In front of Naka Ward Waterworks Bureau close to Leyton House is exhibited the egg shaped pipe made of brick which was excavated1981 from the vicinity of Yokohama National Government Building.



20070323_ph03With the on-streaming trend of Westernization in Japan, Torakichi Ogura with just one razor in hand frequented the foreign ships that harbored in Yokohama and acquired the skill of haircutting by cropping the heads of the sailors. In 1869 he opened the first barber shop in Japan at a Chinese man’s house in the Foreign Settlement which is said to have been located around the area of Tung Fat Restaurant in the heart of China town. A monument stands in Yamashita Park.



20070323_ph04The American, William Eastlake who came to Japan in 1860 gave dental treatment to the Japanese and tutored them the science of dentistry. On his third visit, he established his clinic in Yamashita-cho around the entrance of Chinatown close to Leyton House. A monument was set up in 1985 by Kanagawa Prefecture Dental Association to commemorate the125th anniversary of his arrival in Japan and the birthplace of Western Medical Dentistry in Japan.

There is also another monument constructed in 1995 to commemorate The 70th anniversary of the Association at the location immediately behind Kanagawa Dome Theater designating the embarkation of Modern Dental Science. It demonstrates the gratitude for the achievements. of the American military doctor, St. George Elliot D.D.S. who while operating a dental clinic there tutored 20070323_ph05Western dental medicine to the Japanese for 5 years from 1869 through to1874, and Dr. H. Mason Perkins who took over after Elliot’s departure.



20070323_ph06In the years towards the end of the bakufu reign in Japan there was a means of communication called the kawaraban. In 1862 the shogunate’s Office for Reviewing Barbarian Papers published the translated version of “Javasche Courant”, a periodical for the Dutch Government -General’s Office under the nomenclature of Kanban Batavia Shinbun (Official Batavian Newspapers). In 1861, a year ealier, the Englishman, Albert William Hansard founded Japan Herald in Yokohama for the Foreign Settlement.

The first commercial papers in Japanese was launched in 1864 by Joseph Heko (Hikozo Hamada) a naturalized US citizen and interpreter at the American Embassy with his monthly rendition of translated English papers in Yamashitacho. A year later, his edition was named, Kaigai Shinbun (Overseas News) and continued for 24 periodicals. There is a monument set up near the Chinese Shrine The Kanteibyo, at the location where he had his publication done as the birthplace of newspapers in Japan. The inscription reads that democracy was introduced to revisionists as Takayoshi Kido, Hirobumi Ito and Ryouma Sakamoto known as the pioneers of democracy in Japan.
The first daily “Yokohama Mainichi” was launched in 1870 (unrelated to the present Mainichi Shinbun) which after repeated renamings continued publications until 1941.



Charles Wirgman arrived in Japan in 1861 as news correspondent for “The Illustrated London News”. He is known for his numerous satirical cartoon drawings with articles on news and events. In 1862, he established the monthly periodical “Japan Punch” and published 220 magazines over 25 years The “Japan Punch” provided both news and entertainment with cartoon illustrations and was very popular among the foreigners residents. The first Japanese cartoon magazine “Nipponchi” was published and named so because of the popularity of the word “ponchi”. In 1877 a cartoon magazine”, Maru Maru Chin Bun” ridiculing current affairs was published and sold successfully.

Wirgman also taught the Japanese the fundamentals of western art painting to such artists as Yoshimatsu Goseda and Yuichi Takahashi . He lies buried in the Foreign Cemetery.


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