A mystery solved – the Taitokuin model returns home

Taitokuin MausoleumJust over a year ago I did a post on the Japan-British exhibition of 1910, tracking where the exhibits ended up when the exhibition was over. The one that interested me the most was the one-tenth scale model of the Taitokuin Mausoleum, the memorial to the second Tokugawa Shogun in Zojo-ji Temple in Shiba. It was presented to the then King, George V, and remained for many years in the Royal Collection in dismantled form. But then what happened? I’ve only just found out. Continue reading

Bletchley Codebreakers and Japan

Bletchley ParkYou probably know the story of the codebreakers of Bletchley, whose top secret work to decipher the Enigma system the Germans used to encrypt their wartime communications did so much to help the Allies win the war, and which also laid the foundations for modern computing. Bletchley Park, the country estate where they worked, is open to the public and has been given a major upgrade, so I joined some Twitter friends for a look. Continue reading

The 1910 Japan-British Exhibition – what’s left?

Season ticket to the Japan-British Exhibition 1910

© Museum of London

You thought the London Olympics were big, right? Eight and a half million tickets sold. Spectacular. But in 1910 another event did just as well, and it wasn’t a sporting event but a cultural initiative. It was the Japan-British Exhibition at White City, visited by 8,350,000 people, with 460,000 people passing through its gates in a single day (Japanese Gala Day). Okay, I admit it did go on longer than the Olympic Games – nearly six months, from 14 May 1910 to 29 October 1910.  But what was it for and what did it leave behind?  Continue reading

University College London and the Choshu Five

University College London

I couldn’t let 2013 draw to a close without a nod to the Choshu Five, five young men who, in 1863, secretly braved the arduous journey to London to study at University College. (They had to do it in secret because at that time any attempt to leave Japan was punishable by death). And of course I had to visit their monument at UCL and share some pictures with you.  Continue reading

London Mitsukoshi – End of an Era

London Mitsukoshi

Mitsukoshi on Lower Regent Street closes next Saturday after thirty-four years of trading, so if you want to pay it a last nostalgic visit, like I did, you need to get your skates on. Its atmosphere is rather sad, and the shelves are bare, but walking through its doors is still like walking into Japan. But why should a Japanese department store giant have a branch in London at all? Let me explain. Continue reading

The Perry Scroll

Perry Scroll

It’s the British Museum’s latest treasure; it cost nearly half a million pounds and it records a defining moment in the history of Japan, when two centuries of isolation came to an end and Japan agreed to trade with the west. It’s the Perry Scroll and it’s on display now, showing a different section each month between April and October. Continue reading

England meets Japan – four hundred years ago

Tokugawa IeyasuOn 18th April 1611 the British East India Company ship, the Clove, captained by John Saris, set sail from England headed for Japan. It arrived at Hirado near Nagasaki on 11th June 1613, the first British ship ever to reach Japan.

Hang on, I hear you say. What about William Adams? Wasn’t he the first? Continue reading