Yokohama Boomtown Image Gallery / Y0086_Office
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Yokohama ijin shōkan uriba no zu

Title: Picture of a Salesroom in a Foreign Mercantile Firm in Yokohama
Artist: Sadahide (1807-ca. 1878)
Format: Woodblock print
Medium: Ink and color on paper
Dimensions: triptych: 34.8 x72.8 cm (13 3/4 x28 5/8 in.)
Source: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

In a crowded but typically observant composition, Sadahide has depicted activities in a Western mercantile office. At right Western merchants bargain over merchandise with Japanese tradesmen; hand-gestures supplement their extremely limited knowledge of each others' native languages. Also to the right, wearing a long robe and queue, is a Chinese merchant, one of a large community of Chinese men who performed essential functions in Yokohama's economy as compradors and money changers, and interpreters. Toward the back of the room a Japanese merchant of higher status oversees another transaction. Sadahide has depicted the furnishings and activities remarkably accurately, even capturing such details as the left-to-right horizontal writing of the man in the foreground; by contrast, Japanese was customarily written with a brush in vertical columns beginning from the upper right corner of a page. On the shelf are large bound volumes of books with embossed leather covers, numerous containers and boxes, and a huge picture of an elephant. At left, in the back room, a stairway leads to a second floor, a rarity in early Yokohama. As Sir Ernest Satow (1843-1929) observed, "Architectural ambition at first was contented with simple wooden bungalows, and in the latter part of 1862 there were not more than a dozen two-storied buildings in the foreign portion of the town." Servants, including a "black" laundress in the foreground, attend to the household tasks, while the cooks prepare a large piece of meat. In the corner, a male servant from India plucks a duck. [Adapted from Ann Yonemura, Yokohama: Prints from Nineteenth-Century Japan]

Visualizing Cultures image number: Y0086

Keywords: Westerners, servants, Blacks, Chinese, animals (exotic), women, food, Indians, racial intermingling of Japanese and foreigners

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