The Firsts in Japan from Yokohama, Part VI

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

– Part VI – Sports, Music, and Others



20071025_ph01The government leased property to the Foreign Settlement for safe recreational purposes and constructed the Yamate Park but as the residents could not afford to pay the rent, the government in turn leased the area to the Ladies Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (LLT&CC) which had to ability to upkeep maintenance of the park as well as pay for the lease through their dues. LL&CC is now known as Yokohama International Tennis Club.

LL&CC made 5 courts in 1878 which became the first tennis courts in Japan. A monument made out of a stone roller used in those days stands at the entrance to the site.

Tennis originated from a 12th century French game called paume meaning “palm” ; it was a court game where the ball was struck with the hand. Paume evolved into jeu de paume and rackets were used. The game spread and evolved in Europe. In 1873, a Major in the British Army, Walter Wingfield invented a game called Sphairistik (Greek for “playing ball”) from which modern outdoor tennis evolved. The name “tennis” has its roots to the French word “tenez” meaning “to play”.



The first club known as the Cricket Club for ball athletics and forerunner of Yokohama Cricket and Athletics Club (currently, Yokohama Country & Athletics Club) was established in 1868 and the first baseball game was played at the club’s field in 1871.



20071025_ph02There is an inscription on the monument erected for the “Birthplace of Bowling in Yokohama” that a bowling saloon was opened in 1864 following the one in Nagasaki. This monument is located at the bottom of Yatozaka next to the monument for LAUNDRY.



In 1873, Lt. Cmdr. Archifold Lucias Douglas of the British Royal Navy who was instructor at the Japanese naval academy in Tsukiji , Tokyo demonstrated how to play soccer with his 33 men to their students. This was theinitial step to soccer in Japan. The first recorded soccer game played in Japan was between YC&AC of Yokohama and KR&AC (Kobe Regatta & Atheletic Club).



The first international yacht race (1885) in Japan was between The Imperial Tokyo University student team and Yokohama foreign residents team called Yokohama Amateur Rowing Club and was held offshore Honmoku. Yacht racing were a part of boat racing but later became independent with the establishment of Yokohama Sailing Club in 1886.



20071025_ph03The government, in 1866, built a race track at the hilltop of Negishi and granted permission of usage to the Yokohama Race Club of the Foreign Settlement. Later in 1880, the Nippon Race Club was established and this club took over the management and administration of the racing tracks.


National Anthem (Kimigayo)

20071025_ph04At the bottom of the steep stairs up to the temple grounds of Myokouji on the same ridge as that of Yamate Park (Yamate Park was part of the premises of Myokouji) is erected a monument to the effect that the temple was the birthplace of Kimigayo, the national anthem of Japan erected in 1935 On the clearing atop the stairs is another monument for the Origin of Kimigayo which was constructed in 1937.

In 1869, the British military band Instructor, Maj. Gen. John William Fenton of the British Army who had been teaching military music at Myokouji pursuded Iwao Oyama, commander of the artillery corps who later became Army Minister and Field Martial the need for having a national anthem.

Lyrics were selected from among the old Japanese poems and Fenton was asked to compose the music to it. It was performed, with the accompaniment of brass instruments, during an army parade in 1870, but the melody was later considered to be lacking in solemnity, and it was agreed that a revision was needed.

20071025_ph05The present music was written by Hiromori Hayashi, a musician of the Imperial Household Office and was selected on the basis of the traditional scale used in, gagaku. It was decided that the new melody should reflect the style used in musical chants performed at the imperial court. The German, Franz Eckert who was under contract with Japan as instructor of the Naval Band did the arrangement to Western style muaic.

The new national anthem was first performed in the imperial palace on the Emperor Meiji ‘s birthday, November 3, 1880.



20071025_ph06Military music was first taught by Fenton (cf. National Anthem) to some 30 young soldiers of the Satsuma, Choshu and Tosa Clans gathered at Myokouji in October, 1869. Fenton took no time to import brass instruments from London and in 1870 began actual practice with the newly arrived instruments. By September of that year they were skilled enough to perform together with the British Naval Band at Yamate Park. Yamate Park was constructed in the premises of Myokouji Temple (cf. Yamate Park).

There is a monument at the Entrance to Myokouji Temple with the inscription of “The First Brass Band in Japan” with an explanation that the band was a military band.



William Curtis, an English apprentice cook on a ship came to Yokohama in 1863 at the age of 22 and to fulfill the requirements of the Foreign Settlement started cultivating foreign vegetables such as cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots, asparagus, tomatoes, potatoes, lettuce, radish, onions and others. He made a great fortune out of this farming.. Seeds were very precious and the foreigners were cautious making it difficult for the Japanese to obtain them. He is also known for starting ham business in Kamakura.



In 1872 there were 231 Chinese from Macao being transported to Peru on a Peruvian ship which enroute harbored in Yokohama. The tortured Chinese ran off from the ship. The British Consular advised the government of the “Illegal Confinement by the Captain”. Governor Suguru Oe of Kanagawa undertook to be the Chief Judge and after deliberations freed the Chinese and repatriated them. This was the first international Court decision but the Peruvian government demanded compensation but with the arbitration of Alexander II, Czar of Russia, the judgment of the Japanese was acknowledged to be fair.

In honor of the contributions made by the governor to the city of Yokohama, his name remains as Oe-bashi near Sakuragicho Station.



Yokohama village, when first opened to Westerners was most unsanitary with men urinating at will wherever and whenever. In 1871, in response to the foreign residents the municipal government set up public toilets in 83 places. Though they were “toilets”, they were merely buried barrels in an enclosure. Thereafter, anybody caught urinating elsewhere were fined.



Magoemon Ishikawa began renting 16 bicycles he imported at Motomachi but due to loss by fire in 1883, closed his shop.

To note, the first bicycle made in Japan was by Jinnosuke Kajino in 1879 at Takashimacho.

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