Meeting the Man on the Other Side
1910 Japan British Exhibition in London
In Chapter Two of Lost Histories, I describe how along with the Ainu Village and Formosan Village at the exposition held in London, there was also the Uji village which displayed "authentic" Japanese going about their everyday life, as well as Fair Japan, which had Japanese women clad in kimonos and Japanese artisans and tradesmen showcasing their work. Unlike previous scholarship which has emphasized that the 1910 Japan British Exhibition was a time where Japan was eager to display its colonial others, I show in this chapter how in fact it was British entrepreneur Imre Kiralfy, who pressured the Japanese into having all three villages and Fair Japan at the exposition. Kiralfy, clearly thinking of profits, explained that fairgoers would expect such attractions (since they were present at all previous expositions). The Japanese were not thrilled with the proposition but acquiesced to Kiralfy's demands. Reactions to the Uji village and Fair Japan by British fairgoers put the Japanese at times on the same level as the Ainu and Indigenous Taiwanese- as people whose level of civilization was lower than that of the fairgoers, and who became objects of curiosity to be gawked at, romanticized, and set apart from the fairgoers. In my book by describing the individual experiences of those on display at the exposition I counter the idea that these displays were mainly mere representations of Japanese imperialism. By telling some of the life stories of the individuals on display I counter narratives that persist on viewing them as nameless ethnotypes. Furthermore, in the Japanese newspapers, Japanese protested the Ainu and Formosan villages as well as the Uji village and Fair Japan, which can be seen as part of a longer tradition of protesting being displayed at other world fairs during the late 19th century.
Old Japan, Earl's Court 1907
Japan's position in 1910 was complicated. In addition to being pressured into having the Ainu and Formosan villages, they were pressured by Kiralfy to have Japanese villages. This is one of the few times that a host country of an exhibition also had its own "native" village. The Japanese distaste of displaying humans as spectacles, I argue, derived from their longer experience of being displayed in expositions in Europe from the mid 19thc-early 20thc. These earlier expositions were referenced when Japanese protested the 1903 Human Pavilion, as well as other human displays. (Corresponds to Lost Histories, p.68 footnote 6 and pg. 146).
Fair Japan at 1910 Japan-British Exhibition
(Corresponds to Lost Histories, p. 68, footnote 2). The Fair Japan exhibit had craftsmen demonstrating their work, similar to the exhibition called Old Japan at Earl’s Court in 1907.
The British depictions of the Japanese during the 1910 exhibition
"The British government did not play any official role [in the exhibition]; instead, entrepreneur and businessman Imre Kiralfy (known for producing theatrical spectacles and expositions) coordinated all British involvement, working with the Japanese government. This unequal partnership did not sit well with the Japanese" (Lost Histories, p.92).
Views of the Japanese-British relationship indicated a sexualized and feminized Japan, who at times was the object of masculine England's affection, and at other times, England was the object of Japan's adoration. In the three black and white postcards, British women dress up as Japanese. In the postcard on the left, England is shown to be in pursuit of a coy Japan. On the right, the three "Japanese" women have adoringly surrounded the British man. (Corresponds to Lost Histories, p.92 ,footnote 62).
"That's how its done" The Japanese boy shows off Japan's military prowess- in the form of the cannons- to the British boy. On the reverse, a young child named Dolly has written a message to another child, Prissie. Personal Collection.
The Uji Village showed Japanese farmers going about their daily life in a farmlike setting. Japanese journalist Hasegawa Nyozekan called it unrealistic, saying he had never seen such things as the water wheel that was in the village. He remarked, “I was convinced that this kind of village of low grade status could not have existed even in the previous century in Japan or anywhere else and could only exist at the Japan-British Exhibition" (Lost Histories, p. 146).
Japanese wrestlers at the exposition. Bill Tonkin collection. The sumo wrestlers were included in a montage showing the Japanese, Indigenous Taiwanese, Ainu all mixed together as attractions of the exposition (Lost Histories, p.93). I argue in Lost Histories that rather than the Japanese standing out as civilized colonizers displaying their colonial subjects, their status at the exposition at times was blurred when they were illustrated side by side as novelties.
Ainu Kaizawa Zensuke's signature
Throughout Lost Histories, there are several examples of Japanese newspapers expressing shock about the civilized nature of certain colonial subjects and would offer proof of such civilized behavior by printing their handwritten signatures. One of the Ainu at the Ainu Village in London, Kaizawa Zensuke's signature is shown below. Zensuke's recollections of being in London are described in more detail in Chapter Two. (Corresponds with Lost Histories, p. 97, footnote 79).
Hiramura Kanekatoku. Personal Collection. A card in Bill Tonkin's collection has Hiramura's signature.
Unlike the Paiwan individuals who were in the Formosan village, and who signed numerous postcards, only one postcard with Hiramura's signature has been found.
On the back of the card addressed to a Miss Dawkins it reads:, “This is a gentleman we saw in the Aino home. How would you like him for a young man. A. L.” Personal Collection. (Corresponds with Lost Histories, p. 101, footnote 94).
The construction of an "authentic" Ainu village
In the first set of pictures below I illustrate how much of what was on display were not authentic representations of "native" people but in fact constructions. Not only did the people on display portray "ways of living" that were not close to how they actually lived, but even the representations of the Ainu village had to be doctored in order to maintain the myth of its authenticity. In the black and white version of Valentine's postcard of the Ainu village, the electric light, the two British attendants who worked in the village, and the roller coaster in the background can be seen. Before the color version was released and mass produced these three things that signified the construction of the display were erased. (Corresponds with Lost Histories, p. 101, footnote 95).
In London the Ainu were visited by researchers like Bronsilaw Pilsudski and Jean Rousselot, who used the opportunity of meeting the Ainu to record their language and oral stories (yukar).