Tag Archives: Japan-British Exhibition

On the border 5: the Japan-British Exhibition 1910

The summer of 1910 was pretty dull apparently, nothing like the weather in London this year, or indeed the heat wave of 1906. So there was no reason why thousands of Londoners shouldn’t head towards the Great White City to see a new exhibition. This week we’re joining them, crossing the Kensington border into Hammersmith as we sometimes do, to see some of the wonders of the far east.

The exhibition followed the highly successful  Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 and the Olympic Games of the same year for both of which the White City site had been built under the auspices  of  Imre Kiralfy the man behind some of the most spectacular events at Earls Court

The exhibition presented many aspects of Japanese life, art and industry as these country based exhibitions had done before at Earls Court and the White City. This particular exhibition continued the European obsession with Japan which can be found in art and design since Japan was opened up to the western world in the 1860s. We’ve seen it before on the blog in the work of the artist Mortimer Menpes.  (And in his famous house.)

Visitors could walk among traditional houses and gardens.

 

Climb up landscaped paths, as these two women are doing.

 

 

And enjoy exotic vistas. You can barely spot where the painted backdrop begins in some of these pictures.

 

 

They hardly seem to be located in the crowded exhibition site with its other rides and attractions.

 

 

This picture shows the site with the the stadium . Note in the distance a gasometer and the tower of St Charles Hospital in north Kensington.

Actual Japanese performers enacted tableaux of traditional scenes.

 

Including warriors, as seen below. Londoners were already used to re-enactments of battles and historical events in shows like the wild west performances at Earls Court and elsewhere.

 

 

Sumo wrestling offered something new.

 

And for some there were martial arts skills to learn. Here a woman demonstrates how to see off some attackers even in modern Edwardian dress.

 

The Japanese government was also showing off the sights of the modern industrial Japan.

 

 

Which had already embarked on its own military / imperial actions. During the exhibition a Japanese warship was visiting the country to emphasise  Japan’s role as an ally of the UK.

For most visitors of course, it was the art and culture of Japan which mattered the most, whether the gardens…

 

Or the gods.

 

 

It was after all, just a pleasant day out. For some visitors it was perhaps almost too much.

 

A trio of distinctly European geishas have some pseudo Japanese fun with a tired young man.  We’re still obsessed with Japanese culture today and you can see it everywhere. I wonder if our old friend Yoshio Markino made it to the exhibition?

Postscript

This week’s images came from the Local Studies and Archives department of Hammersmith and Fulham, courtesy of their manager and mine Adrian Autton so thanks to him.

 

[Montage of postcards featuring the four seasons.]

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