“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

A Few Posts on Yokohama – #1 The Grand Hotel

Posted: June 6th, 2014 | No Comments »

As I blogged yesterday about Eric Han’s new book, Rise of a Japanese Chinatown: Yokohama, 1894-1972, I thought I’d offer up a few more images of Yokohama in its treaty port heyday.

As America became the dominant foreign power trading with Japan, American Girls appeared in American-run bordellos in Yokohama and neighbouring Kawasaki where brothels operated by San Francisco Madams operated alongside those run by Japanese organised crime groups in various locations including the port’s major red light district – Nanaken-machi. Here English speaking Japanese girls, targeted foreigners specifically. Yokohama had become a treaty port as early as 1858 following treaties with the United States, Britain, the Netherlands, Russia and France – extrality rights were included in the treaties.

As ever in a port full of foreign sailors brothels had been in existence since shortly after America’s Commodore Perry had opened Yokohama to foreign trade. British, French, Russian and American sailors patronised the grog shops, called “pot-houses”, and brothels of the area on the edge of the port’s Chinatown. The areabecame known as Blood Town or Dirty Town where the sailors drunk themselves blind, enjoyed the girls and fought each other in the street. Yokohama soon had the reputation of being the Wild West of Japan with a cast of, mostly American, driftwood, beachcombers and neerdowells following the sailors’ wallets.

The port prospered though and, by the 1890s, Yokohama was relatively modern by Japanese standards. The most respectable foreigners lived up on “the Bluff” in large European-style houses, gas lamps lit the streets, there was a rail line to Tokyo (which passed right by the windows of the red light district giving passengers cause to ogle or blush depending on their temperament) and the Grand Hotel (which as you can see below went through some remodellings) was considered one of the Orient’s best establishments.

Yokohama - Grand Hotel

Yokohama - The Grand Hotel

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