Gentlemanly Capitalism and the Club

Expatriate Social Networks in Meiji Kobe

Darren L. Swanson, Lecturer, Tezukayama University [About | Email]

Volume 12, Issue 1 (article 1 in 2012). First published in ejcjs on 1 May 2012.


This research is primarily based on material gathered from the Harold S. Williams Collection in the Australian National Library; material from the English-language press in Japan and from various accounts concerning the foreign experience in Japan. While the evidence of foreign influence in the city is plainly obvious, from the historic ijinkan or foreign houses in the city's Kitano-cho, to the monolithic buildings of the city's old foreign settlement, these days the foreigners themselves seemed to be conspicuously absent. The findings of this research offer an alternate view of the often 'rose-tinted' depictions of interactions between the Japanese and the West by highlighting how the Euro-American populations of the foreign settlements imported their own social hierarchies onto Japanese soil via their own social institutions. Although the second largest of Japan's foreign settlements, the foreign experience in Kobe is perhaps one of the best documented, in English, and the city remains famous throughout Japan for its 'foreignness'. Harold S. Williams (1898-1987) was an Australian author who spent nearly his entire adult life in Kobe and wrote extensively about the history of foreigners in Japan. He published several books on the subject, most notably Tales of Foreign Settlements in Japan (1958) and Foreigners in Mikadoland (1963). Williams himself took an active role among the communities many gentleman's clubs, most notably the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club, the Freemasons and the Kobe Club. What follows is an examination of the role of the social networks and various institutions that formed the backbone of the community in the Meiji and pre-WWII eras.

Keywords: social networks, gentleman's clubs, Japan, Kobe, foreign settlements, extraterritoriality


Foreign populations in Kobe have undergone three distinct stages of flux. The first phase can be marked by the arrival of the first foreigners who settled in the fledgling Hyogo port, the area adjoining the current city and what would later be incorporated into the wider city of Kobe in 1868. From this point onwards, foreign communities thrived in the city throughout the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras until the advent of WWII, which saw the population haemorrhage due to the outbreak of hostilities between the Allies and Japan. During the war, only foreign nationals whose countries were allied with the Japanese or whose countries remained neutral were allowed to live and work in the city as normal. The hostilities marked the second transitional period for Kobe's foreign population as many of those who left before the war failed to return. A few did choose to return however, and the influx of new émigrés in the years after the war changed the city's demographic once again. While the foreign population began to thrive once more in the city as the Japanese economy recovered, the foreign nationals living in Japan never regained as much influence as they had done before the war. The third, and final stage for the city's expatriate community was marked by the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. While the disaster affected every resident living in the affected area, Japanese or otherwise, the community was again disrupted as many of the workplaces associated with expatriates in Kobe, such as shipping and foreign consular work, were relocated to nearby Osaka.

Visitors eager to sample the nostalgia of bygone Japan generally head to the city's affluent Kitano-cho, where tourists are ferried up the hill in a Showa-teki bus to see picturesque 'foreign' houses perched at the foot of the Mt. Rokko range. There almost seems to be a national longing among the Japanese for a purer, more innocent Japan that is perceived to have existed before the war. A Japan free of the concrete towers that pepper the horizon making one city indistinguishable from the next; a halcyon period where jinrikshas weaved among the trams or chinchin densha, where rosy-cheeked children sipped ramune, their laughter intermingling with the clip-clop sounds of women's geta. It's an alluring image. It was also the era whereby Japan slowly spiraled into the disaster of militarism, masqueraded in the form of Kōdō-ism, that would eventually lead to the destruction of most of the Japanese urban landscape, paving the way for the now familiar modern sprawl of glass and steel. Incidentally, Ramune, Japan's other national drink, a fizzy lemonade with a distinct bottle, is as much of a symbol of the history of interaction with the West as the treaty port. The drink owes its origins to a one Alexander Cameron Sim, a Scottish pharmacist and founding member of the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club, which in itself, was also a product of the Meiji era.

Foreigner's clubs appeared in nearly all of Japan's treaty ports soon after the terms for extraterritoriality were written up. Kobe was no exception, with two such institutions, namely the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club and the Kobe Club, forming the locus of the Western community in the region for well over a hundred years. The Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club, known locally as the K. R. & A. C, founded in 1870 is the oldest existing institution of its kind, foreign or otherwise, in Japan. Gradually, as the city's demographic ebbed and flowed due to varying political and economic circumstances, these institutions have now found themselves facing a crisis of survival and the possibility of disappearing forever. The original K. R & A. C building has, alas, followed the same fate as much of Japan's pre-war architecture, and nostalgia buffs may be disappointed to find that the once grand edifices of Kobe's famous clubs have long disappeared, and the clubs now exude little of their former glory. However, these institutions were once the beating heart of the pre-war foreign community. It would even be a safe assumption to state that opting out of any kind of social activity involving the clubs was virtually social suicide for any foreign national involved in any kind of business in the city before, and perhaps even after, WWII.

Foreign club culture was not unique to Kobe, however, the resilience of these two institutions throughout the turbulent history of the city make them a significant historical entity around which to base a wider study of the social networks of the foreign community and how they interacted, or more often than not, how they remain still very much on the periphery of Japanese society. As the cultures of the world's most developed economies become increasingly homogenous, the foreign community in Kobe has adapted accordingly to these changes that have taken place within Japanese society. As such, the phenomena of globalization has in many ways rendered these institutions obsolete; essentially they remain as an anachronistic relic of the colonial era. Upon my arrival in Japan over four years ago, the first thing that struck me was how much in common Japan seemed to have with North America. Similarly, Ed Ruscha's 1982 piece, 'Japan is America', somewhat cynically conduces toward the notion of just how far the Euro-American capitalist system has spread throughout the globe. As Buruma has stated, Japan now seems like a distorted mirror image of the country that tried so very hard to shape it after the war.1 While convenience stores, brand name logos and the neon signs of corporations abound, the existence of a Western club culture in Kobe seemed to me to represent an older, more European aspect of Kobe life that the city has become famous for. Stepping over the threshold of the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club for the first time, it was almost as if I had left Japan and returned to one of the historical sports clubs that are scattered throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland. Indeed, despite the diversity of membership at the club there remains something distinctly Anglophile about the clubs giving them a characteristic reminiscent of similar institutions that existed wherever the British had a formal or informal imperial role.

Figure 1. The Kobe Club circa. 19002

Swanson, Figure 1

The European club was an institution that emerged virtually as a direct result of imperialist expansion, and as such, they can be found in any country that has had a history of economic or social interaction with the United Kingdom, and to some extent, other European nations with imperialistic tendencies. While by no means a purely British phenomenon, the gentleman's club tends to evoke images of the upper strata of the British elite. Not suprisingly, London had so many clubs that the area of St James's is still often referred to by some as 'clubland'. Many of the clubs owed their origins to the seventeenth-century English coffeehouses; places where individuals could hold public gatherings and talk in an environment with an air of confidentiality. Anywhere in the world that the British established themselves, the creation of some kind of private space for social gathering was of the highest priority.3 Central to this study is P. J. Rich's theory that the clubs acted as institutions that represented the metropole of the home nation in the peripheral society of whichever country they happened to be in. In this sense, the research outlined below will argue that the clubs can be viewed as satellites of Western meteropole society whereby among their varied roles as places of amusement and relaxation, they were also used as arenas for the propagation of Western hegemonic ideologies.4

Clubland Descends on Kobe

During the era of British overseas expansion there emerged what Bowen has termed as an 'international British elite' or 'transoceanic imperial elite' through the 'Anglicization' of international high society.5 Cain and Hopkins6 have identified this elite society as an alliance of mutual benefit forged between representatives of landowners, and the heads of trading and financial institutions. Their term, 'Gentlemanly Capitalists', has now become synonymous with the historical analysis of the phenomena of globalization. They have argued that Gentlemanly Capitalists were at the very heart of the expansionist process, most notably in the increasingly powerful financial service sector of London in the nineteenth century, whereby they were able to allocate resources, shape opinion and influence decision making. It should therefore come as no surprise that coinciding with the rise of London as an international financial hub, we see the emergence of a network of elite social clubs that came into being as a direct result of the formation of the financial sector, and whose premises were within walking distance from the London Stock Exchange. Effectively, clubs were a kind of conduit for those entering a life in service of the empire. Clubs were a training ground for the uninitiated, and being considered 'clubbable', as Dr. Johnson once famously described James Boswell, was often all one needed to get ahead in life.

As a concept, 'Gentlemanly Capitalism' certainly has a certain ring to it, however, in today's English lexicon, the term conjures up images of doffing hats, monocles and walrus moustaches. Photographs of A. C. Sim and other members of the K. R. & A. C certainly hold true to that image, as seen below in Figure 2. Nevertheless, gentlemanly conduct was an ideology actively promoted by the British public school system via the secular trinity of imperialism, militarism and athleticism.7 Many of the traders who had set up shop in the Kobe settlement were of humble beginnings; self-made men, no doubt, with gentlemanly aspirations. A. C. Sim himself was an indefatigable athleticist, and as has always been the case, excellence in sport was a fast-track way of gaining the admiration of one's peers. Sim's legendary sporting prowess were stuff of Kobe legend. He was famous for winning a race between the settlement and nearby Mt. Maya, a climb of 2,300 feet, in under an hour and a half.8 Quite impressive even by today's standards, however, there were only two participants in the race.

Figure 2. A. C. Sim seen standing on the far left with other K. R. & A. C members9

Swanson, Figure 2

While the sporting achievements of the foreigners in the settlement were no doubt looked upon with quaint amusement by the Japanese, athleticism played a central role in the imperial system. Games were crucial in the development of qualities, such as physical courage and team spirit; attributes that were considered essential in coping with the psychological rigors of imperial duty.10 There was a genuine fear at the time of a Conradesque descent into madness, and a general disdain for those who were seen to have 'gone native'. An early account of a European trader in Kobe, his nationality is unspecified, no doubt to protect his dignity, is mentioned at length in a column in a Hiogo & Osaka News edition of 1868. He appears to have been reprimanded by his peers for having conducted business with the 'Celestials', a thinly veiled racist barb aimed at the Chinese, who had a healthy business presence in the port. The editor informs us that he was quietly encouraged to, 'come out of that', and back into the fold of the white community.11 It seems clear that the 'internationalism' of the settlement was not intended to include the Chinese. Similarly, an incident of what appears to have been vigilantism involving founding members of the K. R. & A. C., Arthur Hasketh Groom and Edward Fischer, towards a group of Chinese gamblers in July of 1872,12 highlights that the men who formed and ran the clubs, also ran the settlement. Early editions of the Hiogo & Osaka News, Kobe's first English language newspaper, often have a haughty tone about them, and it is easy to deduce that the paper saw itself as the voice of reason among the foreign community. Robert Young, the eventual owner of the paper's successor and much superior, Kobe/Japan Chronicle, was responsible for inviting such scholarly mavericks as Lafcadio Hearn and Bertrand Russell to write for the Chronicle. He was also one of the founding members of the K. R. & A. C, as well as senior member of the settlement's International Committee.

While Japan was never incorporated into any foreign imperial body in any formal capacity, during the period of extraterritoriality (1853-1899), the foreign communities of Japan's treaty ports were effectively autonomous regions governed by their own laws and not subject to Japanese jurisdiction. While quite distinct from colonialism, the system did impinge on the sovereignty of Japan, in a way reminiscent of what has been termed as 'informal imperialism'. This term, however, is laden with historical overtones that do not necessarily represent all of the political and social interchanges that took place between the Western Powers and certain Asian nations. Somewhat significantly, European colonial expansion had entered a 'winding down' period in the latter half of the nineteenth century. The two most dominant colonial powers in Asia, the British and the Dutch had sought to consolidate their colonial influence amongst their established overseas territories rather than embarking on new colonial endeavors. Consequently, China and Japan were opened coercivly to the Western world economy in a manner that would be seen as an assault on national sovereignty by today's standards.13 The Chinese situation in the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century is a typical example of an 'informal empire' in relation to the other Asian countries, such as British India, which fell into the more concrete example of 'formal empire' with regard to it's relationship to Britain. In regard to Japan, Akita has argued that the British overseas influence stemmed not only from traditional hold over its formal and informal empires, but perhaps more specifically to the global network of the financial hub of the City of London and its influence on the financial sectors of the capitalist world-economy.14 Specialists in Anglo-Japanese relations, such as Ian Nash, have theorized that after the signing of an alliance with Japan in 1902, the British considered the Japanese a trusted ally rather than as part of the British informal empire.15 This theory, however, does evoke the opinion that before this agreement, Japan may have been tacitly viewed as falling within the informal empire sphere by the British.

While the British government clearly benefitted from maintaining the status quo of the extraterritorial system, in 1894, Japan and Britain signed a treaty eliminating consular jurisdiction and revised the tariff rates (Japan would wait until 1911, however, for full tariff autonomy). The other Western powers soon followed Britain's lead.16 Asserting a countries legal sovereignty in such a way as this can be basically summed up as legal imperialism.17 In regard to legal jurisdiction over their citizens, the so-called Great Powers of the day just didn't recognise the Japanese as being 'civilised' enough at the Tokyo Conference on treaty revision in 1882. Because of its extended period of self-isolation during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Japanese found themselves occupying, what might be termed as the 'Goldilocks zone' of the geopolitical landscape by the late 1800s. In this sense, Japan was deemed as neither 'not too warm' nor 'not too cold' in terms of development, and the relatively short period of extraterritoriality that it endured was seen as a sufficient amount of time to bring her standards up to those viewed as acceptable to the eyes of the West. The astonishing speed whereby the Japanese changed, from a feudal society with an agrarian economy to a modern industrial nation, is perhaps one of the greatest transformations of the past two hundred years. Whereas the the transoceanic elite and gentlemanly 'way of doing' had been centuries in the making in the West, the Japanese were late arrivals to the party. As such, Japanese high society lurched somewhat awkwardly onto the path of Westernization. Western style buildings began to house newly formed ministries and proponents of the Western way, like Mori Arinori, even went as far as suggesting that English replace Japanese as the national language.18

The abolition of extraterritoriality was something that the Japanese had long strived for and justly received in 1899. There was some apprehension among the foreign community in Kobe and the editorials of The Kobe Chronicle in the weeks preceding the official handover of the foreign settlement hint at the fact that the prospect was not welcomed by the foreign merchants as it was to end their monopoly on trade. Lafcadio Hearn's insight into the relationships between the two communities also give a clear picture that things were far from the 'mutual cooperation' that historians both Japanese and Western alike are so fond of commenting on.19 In Nagasaki, the former Nagasaki Club was renamed the International Club on the eve of the transition from extraterritoriality. The Nagasaki Press gave an account of the affair as being attended by twenty Europeans and Americans and over one hundred and twenty-five Japanese. The new organizations express purpose was to create 'a good understanding between Japanese and foreign residents in Nagasaki', this statement perhaps being evidence that the two communities hitherto had been quite separate.20 Also worthy of note is the sheer number of Japanese in attendance, nearly five times as many as foreigners. It was at this stage that the phase for all things foreign was beginning to reach its peak. Many of the senior figures of the Meiji restoration had been almost fanatic in their belief that the future security of the country lay in adopting almost exclusively European culture often at the expense of their own culture.

The German physician Dr. T. Baelz noted that during the early Meiji era that there was an emerging trend amongst senior Japanese officials, many of whom had studied for long periods abroad, who felt a contempt for their own native achievements, and even looked on them as something to be ashamed of.21 The symbol of what Shively has described as 'absurdly overwhelming' westernisation was the Rokumeikan, an elaborate building designed by English architect Josiah Conder in 1883 at a cost of 140,000 yen.22 As incredible as it seems today, Japan's Meiji oligarchy were determined to drag Japan kicking and screaming into the sphere of Western modernism, even if it meant aping European manners and customs. The Rokumeikan would become a symbol of Meiji excess, ridiculed by many Japanese as shameless pandering towards a disinterested West. Japanese couples in full European garb failed to impress Pierre Lotti who dismissed the spectacle as a 'monkey show'.23 Commissioned by Inoue Kaoru, the structure took nearly five years to complete and was seen as the crystallization of the tumultuous transition of the Meiji era.24 Everything from Western style dress to holding lavish ballroom dances became part of the new ruling class' strategy of Europeanization. Foreign clubs and social networking were clearly deemed as part of this process in the 1880s. Spaces such as the Rokumeikan and the Tokyo Club were designed to provide an environment that would allow for a better intercourse between the foreign residents and the Japanese. Ballroom dances, such as the fuanshi bõru held at Ito Hirobumi's residence in April 20th, 1887 was attended by many distinguished guests.25 In the same year in Kobe, a large ball was held by the then Hyogo Governor, Tadakatsu Utsumi (later Baron and Minister of Home Affairs).26 The event was attended by over two hundred guests, including six members of the Imperial household, Ito Hirobumi and his wife and Viscount General Takashima.27

While such acts may seem superficial today they were clearly viewed by the highest levels of government as forming a crucial role in Japan's integration into the modern economic world system. It also highlights the central role that social networking institutions had as centres of power within the foreign community. So much so that they were replicated on many levels throughout the Meiji period and were initially viewed by the ruling Japanese classes as forming a crucial part of the 'civilising process'. Watanabe has argued that for promoters of the westernisation of Japanese society, like Inoue Kaoru, the Rokumeikan became the focal point of the political process of Japanese modernization, and a visible sign of its political maturity.28 Events such as the fuanshi bõru helped to ritualise this process by acting in a manner that was seen by many Western observers as aping Western customs.29 Improvement societies (karyoukai) began to form all over the country almost all of which were dedicated to the westernisation of some aspect of life and culture. However, a backlash from philosophers, educators and various critics of policies of the pro-Western officials such as Inoue Kaoru gradually led to contemporaries like Fukuzawa Yukichi, a one time advocate of the British style of 'civilisation and enlightenment', to distance themselves from acts that appeared frivolous and superficial from the outset.30 Not all Western observers were so ambivalent towards the new Japan. In 1898, Kobe resident and naturist, Richard Gordon Smith, was mesmerized by the elegance of Tokyo's Maple Club, commenting, 'there is nothing to see and yet there is everything to see. So clean and so absolutely artistic in every detail that you are left in wonder and to wonder to yourself, are you the civilized Briton, really civilized at all? What is your house or your club in comparison to this?31

Figure 3. Ukiyo-e by Chikanobu depicting ballroom dancing at the Rokumeikan, Tokyo, Japan, 1888

Swanson, Figure 3

The Rise of a New Transoceanic Elite

In the case of the United Kingdom and the United States, Susan Strange's historical analysis of these two countries roles in the shaping of a Modern World System has been argued as 'structural power'.32 Strange's definition was formulated around the theory that the structural power could effectively exert its influence upon a global scale irrespective of territories. In this respect, Britain's role as the premier European colonial power in the nineteenth century allowed it to exert influence over, not only its formal colonial territories but also towards other European powers and non-European independent powers, such as Japan. It should be remembered that this influence was effectively maneuvered by a relatively small percentage of the national populations and as such the social aspects of their influence was exerted through many channels. The work of the above author who has largely focused on the the changes that took place within a context of human geography and economic policy. However, there is room for a similarly interdisciplinary approach to the role of the social-networks that developed in cities such as Kobe, a city which emerged from direct interaction with Gentlemanly Capitalists.

There were many foreign actors involved in Japan's modernisation, France and Germany, in particular, were instrumental in advising the Japanese during the reformation of their education system.33 The military and the navy also relied heavily on the expertise of Prussia and Britain in the art of modern warfare. This pattern would continue throughout the Meiji era until the Japanese had gained sufficient expertise to handle their own affairs in business and industry. While Commodore Perry is often credited as being the 'opener' of Japan, this view gives little appreciation towards how the Japanese astutely held parley with their Western counterparts in order to prepare themselves for the sweeping changes that would soon engulf them. Japan was no sleeping 'Celestial Empire'; on the contrary, the Japanese were well aware of how powerless China had been during the Opium War of the previous decade. Just as the 'divine wind' had saved them from the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century, the Japanese had sensed the necessity of the wind of change to save them from the fates that had befallen other countries in the region. Rangaku or Dutch Studies, had prepared the Japanese intellectually for its reunion with the West, but nothing could have prepared them for how much ground they would need to cover in order to catch up with the West in terms of industrial advancement.

As stated previously, Cain and Hopkins have employed the term 'Gentlemanly Capitalism' to describe what they see as the process of international gentrification, which helped to establish a common pattern of social and cultural behavior amongst the upper-class of Britain's imperial possessions. As Britain grew as an economic power, so too did the power and influence of an already entrenched group of elite society that had existed prior to the era of imperial expansion overseas. This elite society was bound by a common goal that transcended the boundaries of the British homeland. Effectively, what emerged was a global imperial elite that broke free of the traditional notion of gentrification being synonymous with land ownership. However, the status of landed gentry remained largely intact and indeed could arguably be considered as the initial social model on which the new transoceanic elite based themselves upon. Throughout the British Empire the elite were drawn together by a common purpose and adhered to a similar set of cultural and behavioral codes of practice. Even though many of these social groups were divided geographically and operated in differing contexts, they nevertheless followed distinctly similar lifestyles, displayed many of the same characteristics, and developed a number of interests and associations that transcended local and regional frontiers. Social-networking formed a crucial role within this development and the replication of a club culture is perhaps one of the most identifiable forms of association that emerged during this period.

In regard to the city of Kobe, several anglophile orientated clubs emerged soon after the port was established, namely the Hyogo and Osaka Race Club, the Freemasons, the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club, and the Kobe Club. These clubs are noteworthy as they are virtually identical to similar colonial institutions throughout the British Empire. More often than not, they were formed by an association of 'Gentlemanly Capitalists'. The key difference as to how these clubs were formed and operated lies in the fact that no one hegemonic power laid claim to the islands of Japan, however, as the most populous group of foreigners within this group were British, the clubs and consequently the nature of the foreign community in Kobe has remained decidedly anglophile in outlook. At his stage, it is necessary to be specific about what I mean by the 'foreign community'. While often appearing from the outset as a homogenous society, foreign populations in Japan have always existed. The Chinese, Koreans, Portuguese, Dutch and English all had their own enclaves respectively in the years prior to the sakoku period. What made the situation different during the years of extraterritoriality was that whereas previously, each foreign power had lived and interacted autonomously with the Japanese; in the late 1800s, each foreign power continued to remain autonomous, but in this instance a community was formed under the rubric of 'internationalism'. While there is extensive research concerning the British colonial experience, there is, in many cases, an information gap concerning the influence of British society on cultures outwith the traditional framework of British colonialism. The Japanese were presented by a peculiar challenge during the years of extraterritoriality. It could be argued that during this era the Japanese occupied that grey area between conquered and conquerer, and the fledgling Japanese nation was in many ways betwixt and between a coloniser and colonised country. Only after the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905, a conflict where the Japanese had been regarded as the underdogs, did Western perceptions shift, and Japan's worth as a 'Great Power' finally become indisputable. Thus, paving the way for Japan's own imperial ambitions.

The Emergence of the Port Cities

The emergence of Asian port cities, such as Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore and Kobe, must be understood within the context of the wider global geo-political context that enabled these cities to evolve. Historical, economical and political factors were all at play in their development, and consequently, the social networks that emerged in Kobe and other Japanese ports, as well as the concept of the treaty port itself, are intrinsically linked to the most prominent era of European overseas expansion. While Japan was never a colony in any formal or informal capacity, the fact remains that during the period of extraterritoriality in Japan, which ended with the abolition of the unequal treaties in 1899, the Japanese were effectively on the receiving end of European and North American imperialist policies throughout that period.

In their ongoing case study of British Imperialism, Cain and Hopkins have outlined the distinguishing feature of imperialism is not that it takes on a specific economic, cultural or political form, but that it involves an incursion, or an attempted incursion, into the sovereignty of another state.34 While a bone fide attempt to incur upon the Japanese nation had not occurred since the era of the Mongol invasions, Perez has argued that the Ansei Treaties that Japan entered into with the dominant Western powers of the day did exactly that. As the treaties were unilateral and not reciprocal, they granted rights and privileges to foreigners in Japan, but not to Japanese abroad. Consequently a whole range of unfair clauses were imposed upon the Japanese. Commercial and economic privileges granted foreigners the upper hand in business dealings. Foreigners were allowed to live in 'settlements' apart from Japanese and were allowed to administer their own legislation and regulations on Japanese soil. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, consular courts deprived Japan of it's judicial sovereignty, and therefore implied that Japanese society and culture were inferior to those of the West.35 It should be remembered that Japan as a newly formed nation in the late 19th century was in an extremely vulnerable position in relation to the economically, industrially and militarily superior position of the Western powers. This position was countered only by a combination of quick-witted interaction between the southern Japanese clans and her new found trading partners, in what remains to this day as one of the world's greatest transitions from a feudal society into a World Power capable of upsetting the apple cart of the global status quo.

During the tumultuous years of the Meiji era, which saw a meteoric rise in Japan's economic, industrial and social development, 'gentleman's clubs' and social institutions such as the Freemasons appeared almost as soon as the first traders had set up shop.36 As such, these institutions acted as conduits for the transmission of the core values of the upper strata of European society. While this concept may seem somewhat abstract from the outset, it should be remembered that institutions such as the Freemasons and other gentleman's clubs of that ilk were endemic among Western European society. Freemasonry, in particular, had a huge influence among British subjects overseas precisely during an era when ritual and one's place in society formed a crucial role in the realpolitik of international diplomacy. This is not to suggest that these institutions represented some malign Machiavellian strategy of worldwide political hegemony. As it was, most Japanese, with the exception of a few who had joined lodges overseas, were barred from entering the Freemason lodges established on Japanese soil. Nevertheless, foreign clubs remained one of the prime arenas for the propagation of Western values.

The Modern Globalization Era 1850-1950

There remains the issue of whether there was an imperialism of 'intent' or one of 'result' in Japan. While there is no doubt in my mind that the Europeans residing in the treaty ports were all imperialists to a man, I do not believe that those same imperialists saw any real advantage in trying to gain a formal imperialistic footing in Japan. One view is that most of the Westerners who came to conduct trade in Japan were interested primarily in taking advantage of the situation that existed due to Japan's weakened economic standpoint in comparison to that of the West. At best they can be termed as 'imperialistic opportunists'. Therefore, overseas expansion into the four corners of the globe and the imperialism that accompanied it played a crucial role in the promotion of the dominant hegemonic ideologies connected with class, property and privilege at home during an age of social upheaval and revolution. In the case of Japan, Western powers were keen to help shape a country that had a significant market for export goods, and could be formed into a dependable ally in the global campaign to promote European ideals of superiority and improvement.

In what way were these social networks and institutions different in relation to similar, if not identical, institutions in other parts of, what Sinha has termed as , the 'colonial public sphere'?37 Elsewhere around the globe, the rapid growth of the new industrial economies emerging in Europe and North America were accompanied by large scale trade and investment and a closer bond between economic and emerging economic regions, which allowed for the first time the notion of a truly 'global' economy. The term 'globalization' has now become synonymous with events that have taken place during the late Twentieth and early Twenty-First centuries. However, it could be argued that the world experienced the first phase of modern globalization in the years directly after the opening of Japan until the end of WW II. Cain and Hopkins38 have argued that it was during this period of intense European overseas expansion that 'internationalised' a growing sense of nationality and nationalism by spreading metropolitan ideas and institutions abroad.

For the past three centuries world economic, political and cultural forces have been major factors in the shaping of cities. In his book 'Urbanism Colonialism and the World Economy'39, King has argued that the historical context of contemporary global restructuring must be recognised if present-day urban and regional change, as also the class, cultural, racial and economic composition of cities are to be understood. Colonial cities (or colonial-esque in regards to Japan's treaty ports during the years of extraterritoriality) were major links between core and peripheral economies. King has termed these cities 'global pivots of change' that were instrumental in creating the space in which today's capitalist economy operates.40 If we take Kobe as our example, the social, the racial and the spatial were embodied in explicit linguistic and conceptual forms, the 'international hospital', 'recreational ground', 'foreign club', 'Indian club', 'native town', etc. are but a few examples. One informant's Japanese friend confided to her that he never considered Kobe to be 'a Japanese city', and to this day Kobe is viewed as the most cosmopolitan of Japan's cities with the exception of Tokyo/Yokoyama.

Spatial Arrangements of the Treaty Ports of Asia

During this era, throughout much of Asia, we can track the emergence of the treaty port as a means of engaging with and extracting wealth from previously untapped markets. Taylor's work on the treaty port system has shown that there were far more to these cities than merely import/export statistics and diplomatic maneuvers. More than anything, the treaty port system represented a social system of exclusion and exploitation that was unique in the imperialist movement of the Western powers during the mid-to-late 19th century. Along with the treaty port system came specific concepts of regarding space and power, and these concepts were transferred onto the coastal ports of Asia.41 The construction and design of these ports were in many ways dominated by Western expatriates. These expatriates brought with them there own organisations and institutions. The clubs and social networks that emerged along with the ports essentially aided and strengthened what was already a creation of the Western social system. The treaty ports of Asia all had one thing in common, which was essentially, the remolding of Asian civilisation along Western lines. 'Bunds' became a common feature in cities. Perhaps one of the most instantly recognisable of these is the Shanghai Bund with it's grand promenade along the Huangpu River.42 In the nineteen thirties when most of Europe and North America were struggling with the crippling economic woes brought on by the depression, Shanghai was, by stark contrast, a booming metropolis. If New York, Paris, London symbolised the glamour of the Western world, the East Asian tripatriate of Shanghai, Kobe, Yokohama represented its equally decadent counterpart. These days the Kobe Bund is largely obscured by a double-decker expressway and a variety of other tall buildings, however, in it's heyday the Kobe Bund once earned it the reputation as Japan's 'Premier Port' and was the main rival to the other 'bunds', often out performing Yokohama in trade and industry.43

Extraterritoriality in Japan operated in many ways similar to China's 'open door policy' of the early twentieth century. Overall the system differed greatly from the key aspects that defined colonies, nevertheless, the system was close enough to colonialism for it to be described in such terms as 'semi-colonialism' or 'semi-imperialism' by Chinese scholars. Japanese scholars tend to focus on how the Japanese successfully ended extraterritoriality by political reform and shrewd negotiation. However, the fact remains that during the extraterritoriality period, which lasted until 1899, the Japanese were essentially situated on the peripheral edge of Western imperialism, and were not considered players in the 'Great Game'. The treaty port itself could be summed up in simple terms as, an area that operated under local sovereignty, foreign extraterritoriality, and were derived from laissez-faire capitalism, all of which had profound effects on the way the ports were spatially arranged. The treaty port often took the form of a quadripartite division of European colonial power.44 For example:

  1. A governor general or equivalent body that held power;
  2. Law courts or like bodies that held judicial power;
  3. The military (representing military power); and
  4. The church (representing spiritual power).

This divisional system would often be transferred onto the city's spatial layout with these four categories often materialising along architectural lines within the city. For example:

  1. Executive power in the form of a governor's residence;
  2. Military Parade Ground;
  3. Court buildings; and
  4. Churches or a cathedral.

While the above explanation refers to the situation in China, the development of Kobe's urban layout was quite different. In place of a military parade ground, there was the recreation ground. This space was negotiated between the foreign community and the Japanese government with the help of Ito Hirobumi. The whole concept of the ground was the creation of a recreation space for foreign residents and Japanese for perpetuity.45 The ground also played a crucial role in the introduction of modern Western sports, such as, football, rugby and cricket, into Japan.46 Footage of the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club during the 1920s/30s reveal that there was an element of this area maintaining a 'martial' role through the discipline and popularity of sports within the foreign community.47 The prominence and pervasiveness of these kinds of institutions during this era should not be overlooked. In his bleak account of colonial life in Burma, Orwell stated that, 'when one looked at the Club, one looked at the real centre of the town... the European Club is the spiritual citadel, the real seat of British power'.48 While the political context of Orwell's story was quite different to that of Japan, the sentiment regarding the clubs remains the same. Often what appeared from the outset as little more than an extension of a public school atmosphere was actually the kind of environment where deals were made, information was exchanged and where reputations could be made or even ruined. As Rich has stated, the clubs reinforced the real politik of imperialism.49 In this respect, I would argue that as Kobe evolved along quite different lines from that of the other treaty ports in Asia. An internationally-governed municipality controlled the settlement, while the Recreation Ground occupied the area that was otherwise occupied by the military in the other treaty ports of Asia. While I do not consider the sports club the K. R. & A. C. a military institution, sport is in many ways an expression of martial discipline. In the case of Kobe, this martial discipline was regularly on display for all the residents of the city to view, similar to that of a military parade. In place of a military show of strength, there was a sporting show of strength. Thus, since the foreign community was denied it's familiar role as coloniser, there was a chance to lead by example and showcase their civilisation by way of their sporting prowess. The club itself was formed in the earliest years of the ports conception and may have formed as a result of the lack of any other disciplined body within the community.

Due to significantly longer waiting periods between trade shipments coupled with the absence of a telegraph system in the pre-industrial port, boredom was severe enough of a problem to be considered a threat to the health and moral well-being of a company employee. Reports in the English press in Kobe in the early years of the port's conception complain of the moral debauchery of those left to their own devices and cites similar problems in the port of Shanghai.50 It was not uncommon for residents in the ports to slowly succumb to alcoholism in an attempt to combat the loneliness and cultural isolation that went hand-in-hand with living so far from one's home country. It was, therefore, often seen as a necessity to establish some form of club to keep, especially the younger population of traders and officials in check.51

In contrast to the other Asian treaty ports, Kobe was built in full knowledge of the mistakes that had occurred in the development of those ports. The race course and recreational ground were intended to provide entertainment to all, regardless of racial background.52 Race courses and gambling were a common feature of the Asian treaty port, and for many years appears to have been the most popular form of entertainment. The early newspaper reports cover the events in almost hysterical detail , with one journalist commenting in the 1890s that residents in Yokohama, 'did not know anything about Japan except pony racing, nor do they wish to, a fact that they soon let you know'. Thus, the decision to create a space for foreigners and Japanese alike may have been a key aspect of the overall vision of a truly international settlement, at least in theory, capable of avoiding the tensions that had arisen in the other ports of Asia. It is also worthy of note that the building of a church was something of a late development in Kobe reinforcing Orwell's statement concerning the club as the 'spiritual home' of the foreign community. In fact, in Kobe, the Freemasons were the first to establish an institution some time before a proper church was established.53 The Kobe Club was also situated at the end of the Recreation Ground and was in walking distance to the Customs House near American Hatoba. The heart of London's Clubland is famed for it's close proximity to the financial district, therefore, it should be of no surprise that the Kobe club occupied a similar strategic position.

In regard to Kobe, these institutions should replace the church and military parade ground as familiar categories that were replicable among the treaty ports. If we take the previous quadripartite model as our example, the case of Kobe foreign port might look something like this:

  1. Extraterritorial Authority/ Foreign Municipal Council;
  2. Parade Ground/ Recreation Ground, Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club;
  3. Judicial Authority/ Municipal Court or Consular Courts;
  4. Moral Authority/ the club;

It should be borne in mind that the population of Kobe in the early years of the settlement barely exceeded two hundred inhabitants. Many of those inhabitants split their time between their own line of employment and an official or semi-official role in the community. A. C. Sim, founder of the K. R. & A. C, is listed as a druggist in the Chronicle and Directory of Japan, China and Philippines in 1870, however, he was also Vice-President of the Municipal Council and Chief Fireman for the settlement.54 In the first year of its conception, the club had as many as thirty members, one sixth of the population. Similar institutions began to emerge, each catering to a different social group. A German Club was formed to cater for German nationals and other Europeans with an affinity for that country. Not to be outdone, and International Club was formed by a coalition of 'gentlemen', most of whom were consular officials from Britain, France, Italy and the United States.55 These clubs gradually grew in size to become virtual carbon copies of the clubs that were formed in virtually all the treaty ports and colonial settlements throughout the globe.

Why did these clubs form with such regularity? There are several reasons. Firstly, the late 1800s were markedly different from the first half of the century whereby the imperial powers of Europe had acted with more or less impunity throughout the globe. Ever increasing needs for untapped markets led to what was for the first time a truly global economy. This brought with it never before seen levels of increased migration, which brought with it all of the social and cultural mechanisms of the core to the periphery.56 While the vast Indian subcontinent drew all walks of life from the British Isles, Japan's foreign population was based on a disproportionate number of oyatoi, highly-trained and educated individuals schooled in the imperial system and stemming almost exclusively from an upper-class or middle-class background.57 While the upper-stratum of the foreign community was dominated by high-ranking consular officials, industrialists and wealthy trading magnates, there were also a significant number of traders, tradesmen and seamen all from diverse social backgrounds. This concentrated mix of nationalities and classes living together in confined territories often led to the demarkation of boundaries and the allocation of space along racial and class lines. In Kobe, the foreign settlement was clearly defined from the 'native town' by 'Division Street', and one must assume that those living beyond that boundary were in the eyes of the elite as being beyond the pale.

Japan's treaty ports in the late 1800s were often notoriously dangerous for the uninitiated. Pioneers from a wide variety of nations and social backgrounds were attracted to the newly-opened country in expectation of carving a new life for themselves and the chance of new riches. One contemporary account from Kobe paints a picture of a 'gold rush' atmosphere similar to that of the North American West, stating:

“A cloud of so-called traders, the scum of the foreign communities from the Chinese ports, rushed ashore with indecent haste... By evening rows and rows of canvas shanties had been built on the Concession ground, whilst a few Japanese houses had been taken possession of and were already in full swing as grog shops. So that, long before dark, this peaceful, orderly Japanese town, in which for centuries riot had been unknown, was converted into a place were all hell seemed let loose, with Japanese and Europeans rolling around drunk, fighting, bawling, chasing women, and behaving in a manner which would not have been tolerated anywhere in the civilised world. It was a coarse and degrading debauch this inauguration of Christian civilisation”.58

Since the extraterritoriality system existed in all the treaty ports in China and Japan, all foreigners living in those ports were not subject to the laws of the land, but rather to the jurisdiction of their own national consular courts. Crime was often rife, and early accounts show that attacks and robberies were frequent, causing many residents to carry a pistol for protection.59 It was, therefore, somewhat inevitable that the community in the port began to stratify along class lines to those of Europe, reverting to a certain 'clannishness' by forming institutions that catered for those who considered themselves to be of a higher moral standard.

A second reason for the emergence of a club culture was that of ritualism. The age of European imperialism was laden with ritualistic exercises deemed necessary for the swift propagation of Christian civilisation. Ritualism was woven into the invented traditions and myths surrounding the spread of imperialism everywhere in Europe and could be found among the various institutions that emerged among the upper-strata of European society. A Mason arriving in a hostile environment, for example, as 1868 Kobe would have been to many, would have quickly sought the assurance that fellow members were there to watch his back, provide much needed business advice, and perhaps most commonly, an offer of employment. The ritual aspect of the Masonic rites also served as comforting practice for its members in that, by participating in these rites, they were able to form a connective memory to their home nation.60 In Somerset Maugham's short story set in Kobe, a young hopeful employee falls foul of an older, wealthier businessman's challenge to undertake a life-threatening swim for a promise of a clerk's position, drowning in the effort.61 Although fictional, the incident has an air of the initiation ceremonies and rituals associated with the public schools and Freemasonry. Rich has argued that a persuasive ritualism could be found among various societies, whether masonic or otherwise allowed their practitioners a significant sway to manipulate the country and the Empire. Similarly sports and athleticism were ritualistic acts in the process of indoctrination of the imperial mindset, thus, sport in school and in an imperial context, such as the club, became ritualistic excersises.62

In her work on the social activities of Scottish communities in British India, Buettner suggests that the social clubs that emerged acted as rituals of solidarity; comprising of symbolism and practices that were created in order to unite those involved by invoking a common identity.63 This was only possible as the actors involved in carrying out these rituals were familiar with them because they were connected to those cultural traditions, regardless of whether they were invented or otherwise, by the very fact that they belonged to that particular culture. These rituals became embedded in colonial society and were replicated ad infinitum as Europeans sought to replicate their own forms of society wherever they were based. Similarly, Cannadine has suggested that in an essentially static age, unchanging ritual may remain deliberately unaltered so as to give the impression of continuity, community and comfort, despite overwhelming contextual evidence to the contrary.64

Lastly, there is little doubt that those residing in the settlements viewed the Japanese as empty cups eagerly waiting to be filled by the promise of modern investment. As stated earlier, it was clear that the European community, even though they were not in control of the country, felt they had an obligation to lead by example. Japan was in many ways the last frontier of the Far East, and the foreign population consisted overwhelmingly of young men. One commentator in the Hiogo News, complained that some in the community were not observing the sanctity of the Sabbath by holding a Regatta on a Sunday. This account is perhaps one of the earliest references to an event that would be a mainstay of the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club in 1870. His withering attack on those is as follows:

“Whilst the ignorant heathen among whom we live are strict in their observance of their various religious festivals, we the pioneers of civilisation and propagandists of the true faith, should so far as outward appearance goes, be greater than they”.65

The Eurocentric rhetoric of the article is obvious, as are other reports of the day. As the European community was denied it's familiar role as coloniser, those 'pioneers of civilisation' sought to create institutions that would form, as stated earlier, a colonial public sphere, whereby imperial objectives still remained the norm regardless of what was taking place outside the confines of the foreign settlement. Eurocentrism lay at the very heart of European imperial expansion and imperial ideology. Eurocentrism, whether conscious or unconscious, acted as a mechanism in the subordination of non-white, non-Christian peoples everywhere, and greased the wheels of the political and economic machinery of European imperialism.66 This strategy was not intended merely to separate Orient from Occident but also the strict class observances that existed in those countries. The perfect vehicle for establishing such a world view was none other than the gentleman's club.

The Empire's clubs, much influenced by the public schools, enforced caste, comforted the homesick, and perpetuated the imperial privileges. Indeed the architecture of the Imperial clubs resembled schools, with their characteristic verandahs that were strikingly similar to the pavilion of a public school. Rich has suggested that the trend for such buildings was evident throughout the British Empire. However, the pavilion architecture was in stark contrast to the grand architecture of the exclusive clubs of London, such as the palatial Reform Club or the Athenaeum.67 Early photographs of the Mirume Boathouse of the K. R. & A. C are unmistakeably similar to those that existed in Britain at that time, and elsewhere in the British Empire.68

Figure 4. K.R. & A. C. members outside the Mirume Boathouse in the 1870s69

Swanson, Figure 4

Rich's analogy of the club as school, therefore, is a valid one as these institutions often acted as an extension of the English public school environment. Life for the early foreign residents of Kobe was in many ways fairly uneventful. In a time when correspondence by mail could take weeks, and travel was generally restricted to either boat or horse, the community had little choice but to organise it's own amusements. The above comment shows there was a clear concern for the moral well-being of the ports younger inhabitants. Therefore the clubs were, in effect, necessary for 'schooling' their young officials in preparation for life overseas. Members and the companies that they represented were responsible for the promotion and spread of their way of life, both social and economic.70

Gentlemanly Capitalism and Kobe

The internationalization of the gentlemanly ideal, helped to establish a common pattern of social and cultural behavior amongst the upper-class of Britain's imperial possessions. As Britain grew as an economic power, so too did the power and influence of an already entrenched group of elite society that had existed prior to the era of imperial expansion overseas. This elite society was bound by a common goal that transcended the boundaries of the British homeland. Effectively, what emerged was a global imperial elite that broke free of the traditional notion of gentrification being synonymous with land ownership. The status of landed gentry, however, remained largely intact and indeed could arguably be considered as the initial social model from which the new transoceanic elite based themselves upon. Throughout the British Empire the elite were drawn together by a common purpose and adhered to a similar set of cultural and behavioral codes of practice. Even though many of these social groups were divided geographically and operated in differing contexts, they nevertheless followed distinctly similar lifestyles, displayed many of the same characteristics, and developed a number of interests and associations that transcended local and regional frontiers.71 During the period throughout the British colonial territories, class structure was both mirrored and distorted in relation to the homeland. Thus, the imperial British hierarchy was viewed as the prime model for society amongst its subjects, and the reinforcement of British metropolitan hierarchies overseas was considered the norm.72

In relation to the foreign community residing in Kobe and the other former treaty ports of Japan, it is a fair assumption to presume that the English-print media played a crucial role in terms of promotion and standardisation of European manners and practices.73 In general, most of the pioneers who were willing to risk their lives in search of profit in an inhospitable environment, as Kobe would have been at that time, came to Japan convinced of the intellectual, moral and spiritual superiority of what they thought of, not as their 'culture', but rather their 'civilisation'. There were also widely held beliefs among many concerning the superiority of their 'race', as ideas concerning the hierarchy of the races were gaining popularity throughout the Western scientific world in the latter half of the nineteenth century.74

This kind of racial superiority was expressed in a variety of ways, perhaps most notably through the agreement of extraterritoriality, which was seen as a national humiliation to many Japanese,75 but also through the exclusionary policies of the clubs that were based on similarly racial lines.76 Indeed, there was even a point when the Kobe Club considered passing a motion to exclude Japanese membership, eventually bowing to British consular pressure to abandon the idea. As Barr has noted, Japan was never colonised, but the foreigners that resided there were imperialists for all that.77 Social networking, therefore, formed a crucial role within this development and the replication of a club culture is perhaps one of the most identifiable forms of association that emerged during this period.

The European social club emerged precisely at a time when a new European public world of politics and economics was being consolidated in Japan and in many other spheres of European influence. Despite the fact that Japan was an independent power, these institutions were virtually identical to the similar institutions that emerged throughout the British Empire and were formed by an association of Gentlemanly Capitalists. Similarly, the dominant voice of the treaty ports in Japan, as in China, was British. While the Chinese represented the bulk of the foreign population in the Japanese treaty ports, the British remained the most vocal and largest of the non-Asian foreign groups until WWI. They were the biggest bankers and the main traders. British Shipping commanded the coastal trade. The foreign press was for the most-part British owned and edited. The British consular establishment was the most well-established and efficient, therefore, they were also the main exploiters of the extraterritoriality system.78

The emergence of a new elite society fostered an alliance of mutual benefit forged between representatives of landowners, and the heads of trading and financial institutions.79 These Gentlemanly Capitalists were at the very heart of the expansionist process, most notably in the increasingly powerful financial service sector of London in the nineteenth century. It should therefore come as no surprise that coinciding with the rise of London as an international financial hub, we see the emergence of a network of elite social clubs that came into being as a direct result of the formation of the financial sector, and whose premises were within walking distance from the London stock exchange.

If we are to take Cain & Hopkins' terminology as a given, Gentlemanly Capitalists were responsible for the propagation of a whole set of social mores that went hand-in-hand with overseas European expansion and the 'westernisation' that accompanied it. In the case of Japan, this relationship would last largely unchanged until the end of extraterritoriality in 1899. However, Japan has simultaneously occupied the roles similar to those of colonised and coloniser through the interaction with Western nations, and later in it's actions towards neighbouring Asian countries.80 Through the establishment of institutions such as the European Club, the Japanese were introduced to a Western society that was modeled along rigid social hierarchies. Emulation of western practices was even actively encouraged under the new government. The Imperial family were the first to set an example by releasing a portrait of the Emperor in western attire, and leading figures such as Mori Arinori were key proponents of all things western.81

By deploying new, often imported, social knowledge and models of social relationships, the new middle-class in Japan towards the end of the nineteenth century helped to create a new dialogue in order to tackle the national and social problems of the day. Even though this new middle-class constituted a politically unified body, they nevertheless formed a crucial role in the shaping of public opinion and helped influence the governing system of the new Japan.82


Were those who formed the elite society in Kobe Gentlemanly Capitalists'? The question as much as the term itself remains somewhat ambiguous. Certainly there were those among Kobe society who fitted the bill. However, there were also a number of individuals who were perhaps shaped by the distinct political differences that set Japan apart from the traditional colonial spheres. Above all, Japan remained sovereign, and as such, the foreign residents who chose to remain for any length of time to try and shape and manipulate the nature of the country's economic, social and political life, were in turn shaped by their relation to Japan. Despite the diversity of membership at the clubs in Japan, there remained something distinctly Anglophile about their set-up giving them a characteristic reminiscent of similar institutions that existed wherever the British had any political or economic influence. In this respect, the European club was an institution that emerged virtually as a direct result of imperialist expansion, and as such, they can be found in any country that has had a history of economic or social interaction with the United Kingdom. P. J. Rich argues that these clubs acted as institutions that represented the metropole of the home nation in the peripheral society of whichever country they happened to be in. In this sense, the clubs can be seen as satellites of Western metropole society whereby among their varied roles as places of amusement and relaxation, they were also used as arenas for the propagation of Western hegemonic ideologies. The European club, therefore, emerged in Japan at precisely the time when a new European public world of politics and economics was being consolidated in Meiji era Japan and in many other spheres of European influence.

European elites, it has been argued, were 'processed'83 for domestic and social life in the overseas community. Effectively forming a network of communities that were replicated along similar lines both culturally and spatially, foreign clubs served as a training ground for how representatives of their society were expected to behave. By 1932 there were as many as 24 foreign clubs and institutions operating in Kobe. Interport sporting competitions were a yearly event in most calendars in the clubs of Kobe, Yokohama and Shanghai helping maintain bonds that transcended formal business dealings, and contemporary accounts seem to allude to the fact that they were highly-regarded events that were sources of enormous pride.84 Just as in other communities where clubs emerged, these institutions served as a way of incorporating Europeans abroad into a new political and social order. However, just as the Anglo-Indian community was separated from the native society, so too was the foreign community in Kobe, albeit to a lesser extent as in the case of the K. R. & A. C. This club, in particular, seems to have fostered some kind of international cooperation at the heart of its formation. While Japan appears to have not been so racially segregated as the colonial spheres of India or Africa, the Japanese and Western residents rarely mixed in a social setting that could be called cosmopolitan. Hearn's description of crossing the concession line as being akin to, 'crossing the Pacific Ocean, which is much less wide than the differences between the races',85 hints that the internationalism was the ideal but not the norm.

The Japanese themselves may even have been agents in the separation of these communities. There is evidence that through their desire to cater to the needs of foreigners, the Japanese continually ushered foreign workers or residents in directions, which inevitably kept them separate from the Japanese population. One contemporary example highlights that this was a common tactic amongst companies who employed foreigners. During the 70s many sought solace at the clubs as they acted as a an 'escape' from the Japanese community, while at the same time their companies discouraged them from engaging with the Japanese population at large by 'over-catering' to their foreign employees needs.86 Conversely, the contemporary club, far from being what Orwell described as, 'the Nirvana for which native officials and millionaires pine in vain', is often supported by a high proportion of Japanese members as foreign membership begins to dwindle. Lastly, and somewhat ironically, some contemporary Japanese members of these exclusive foreign clubs have expressed a desire for the clubs to remain 'foreign' in aspect in order to maintain their appeal as foreign institutions and have therefore discouraged the notion of increased Japanese membership.87


[1] Buruma, I. 2003. Inventing Japan, 1853-1964, London. pp. 152.

[2] Japan Chronicle, Nov. 28th, 1900.

[3] Sinha (2001)

[4] See Rich, P.J. Chains of Empire: English public schools, Masonic Cabalism, Historical Causality, and Imperial Clubdom, London.

[5] Bowen, H. V. 2002. Gentlemanly Capitalism and the Making of a Global British Empire: Some Connections and Contexts, 1688-1815, in Akita, S (eds) Gentlemanly Capitalism, Imperialism and Global History, London.

[6] Cain, P. J & Hopkins, A. G. 1987. Gentlemanly Capitalism and British Expansion Overseas II: New Imperialism, 1850-1945, in The Economic History Review, NS, Vol. 40, No. 1 (Feb), pp. 1-26.

[7] Mangan, J. A. Play up and Play the Game: Victorian and Edwardian Public School Vocabularies of Motive, in British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Oct 1975), pp. 324.

[8] Japan Chronicle, Nov. 28th, 1900.

[9] Newman, D. 2000. The J. W. Henderson Collection of Japanese Photographs: formed 1864-76, London. pp. 59.

[10] Mangan (Ibid)

[11] Hiogo & Osaka News, Sept. 28th , 1868.

[12] H. B. M's Provincial Court Record英国領事裁判記録, 1872, Kobe Chuo Library.

[13] Strang, D. 1996, 'Contested Sovereignty: the construction of colonial imperialism', in Weber, C. & Biersteker, T. (eds). State Sovereignty as Social Construct, Cambridge.

[14] Akita, S. (eds). 2002. Gentlemanly Capitalism, imperialism, and global history, New York.

[15] Nish, I.1966. The Anglo-Japanese Alliance: The Diplomacy of Two Island Empires 1894-1907, London.

[16] Perez, Louis G. 2000. Japan Comes of Age: Mutsu Munemitsu and the Revision of the Unequal Treaties. London.

[17] Kayaoglu, T. 2007. Legal Imperialism: Sovereignty and Extraterritoriality in Japan, the Ottoman Empire, and China,

[18] Cobbing, A. 1998. The Japanese Discovery of Victorian Britain. RoutledgeCurzon, London.

[19] Hearn's 'A Glimpse of Tendencies' deals with the simmering resentment of the extraterritorial system amongst the Japanese at the tend of the century. Hearn, L. 1896. Kokoro: hints and echoes of Japanese inner life, London. pp. 120-55.

[20] Nagasaki Press, March 8th, 1899.

[21] Baelz, T. (eds) 1932. Awakening Japan: the diary of a German doctor, E & C. Paul (tr), London. pp. 72.

[22] Shively, D. 1971. The Japanization of the Middle Meiji, in Shively, D (eds) Tradition and Modernization in Japanese Culture, London. pp. 122-177.

[23] Buruma, I. 2003. Inventing Japan: 1853-1964, London. pp 46.

[24] Watanabe, T. 1996. Josiah Conder's Rokumeikan: architecture and national representation in Meiji Japan, in Art Journal, vol. 55, no. 3, Japan 1868-1945: Art, Architecture, and National Identity. pp. 21-27.

[25] Shively, D. 1971, pp. 95.

[26] Williams, H. S. 1972. Things Japanese or Kobe's Grandest Ball, in The Journal of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, (Feb) pp. 36-38.

[27] Williams, H. S. (Ibid)

[28] Watanabe, T. 1996. pp. 25.

[29] Cortazzi, H. 1991. The Japan Society: a hundred year history, in Cortazzi, H. (eds) Britain and Japan: themes and personalities, London. pp. 1-54.

[30] Shively, D. 1971, pp. 95-110.

[31] Gordon-Smith, R. 1898. Travels in the Lands of the Gods, London, pp. 34.

[32] Strange, S. 1988. States and Markets, London.

[33] The Japanese employed a whole host of foreign 'experts' during the Meiji era. For more on the German and French influence on the Meiji era education system, see Zha, Q. 2004. Foreign Influences on Japanese and Chinese Higher Education, in Higher Education Perspectives, Vol 1, No 1, pp. 1-15.

[34] For a more detailed study on formal and informal imperialism see Cain, P. J & Hopkins, A. G. 2001. British Imperialism, London.

[35] Perez, L. G. 1999. Japan Comes of Age, London.

[36] Almost as soon as the port was opened in 1868, a number of establishments rented rooms to various clubs and societies. Most of them advertised themselves in the local English language newspaper the Hiogo and Osaka News.

[37] Sinha, M. 2001. 'Britishness, Clubbability, and the Colonial Public Sphere: The Genealogy of an Imperial Institution in Colonial India, in Journal of British Studies 40 (October 2001).

[38] Cain & Hopkins, 2001.

[39] For a detailed study of the 'core and periphery' theory of the Asian treaty ports see King, A. D. 1990. Urbanism and the World Economy: Cultural and Spatial Foundations of the World Urban System, London.

[40] King, 2001: 5-7

[41] Taylor, J. E. 2002. The Bund: Littoral Space of Empire in the Treaty Ports of Asia, in Social History, Vol. 27, No. 2 (May), pp. 125-142.

[42] Taylor, 2002: 125-128.

[43] Include Ref

[44] Taylor (2002) has highlighted Lee and Lau's hypothesis in the above article. It should be noted that this quadripartite division of European colonial power uses the Chinese treaty ports as it's example.

[45] Williams, H. S. The Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club: the first 100 years, Kobe.

[46] Tanada, S. 1988. 'Diffusion into the Orient: the introduction of western sports in Kobe, Japan', in the International Journal of the History of Sport, 5: 3, pp. 372-376.

[47] Footage of the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club during this period was filmed by the James family of Kobe and can be viewed in the Harold S. Williams Collection at the Australian National Library.

[48] Orwell, G. 1934: 14, Burmese Days, London.

[49] Rich, P. J. 1991: 151. Chains of Empire: English public schools, Masonic Cabalism, Historical Causality, and Imperial Clubdom, London.

[50] Hyogo and Osaka News, 1868.

[51] This suggestion is made by the editor of the Kobe Chronicle, Robert Young, in the 1918 Jubilee Edition of that paper. However, it is my own personal opinion that alcoholism or building a strong tolerance for alcohol is seen as a rite of passage for many expatriate community members to this day, and is often portrayed in a very masculine context.

[52] For a more detailed account of the treaty drawn up between the Japanese government and the Kobe Municipal Authorities, as well as the development of the first clubs in Kobe, see Williams, H. S. 1970. The Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club: the first 100 years, & 1975. The Kobe Club, Kobe.

[53] Young (Ibid)

[54] For an account of the life and exploits of A. C. Sim, see Takagi, M. 1996 ハイカラ神戸を創った男A.C シムの市民生活、スポーツ、ボランティア活動, Kobe.

[55] Williams (1975)

[56] Darwin, J. 2002. Globalism and Imperialism: the Global Context of British Power, 1830-1960, pp. 43-64, in Akita, S (eds) Gentlemanly Capitalism, Imperialism and Global History, London.

[57] For a discussion of the employment of foreigners in Japan, see Jones, H. J. 1968. 'The Formulation of the Meiji Government Policy Toward the Employment of Foreigners', in Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 23, No. 1-2, pp. 9-30

[58] Gambier, J. W. 1841. Links in my Life on Land and Sea, London. pp. 372-373.

[59] Barr, P. 1965. The Deer Cry Pavilion, London. pp. 197. For references to pistol carrying residents seeHiogo News, Jan 19th 1870.

[60] Harland-Jacobs, J. 1999: 245 in 'Hands Across the Sea: The Masonic Network, British Imperialism, and the North Atlantic World', in Geographical Review, Vol. 89, No. 2. pp. 237-253.

[61] For reference to this particular short story, see 'A Friend in Need', in Maugham, S. 1935. First Person Singular, London.

[62] Rich, P. J. 1991. Chains of Empire: English public schools, Masonic Cabalism, Historical Causality and Imperial Clubdom, London. pp. 190-194.

[63] Buettner, E. 2002. Haggis in the Raj: private and public celebrations of Scottishness in late imperial India, in The Scottish Historical Review, vol. 81, no. 212, part 2 (Oct). pp. 227.

[64] Cannadine, D. 1983. Context, Performance and the Meaning of Ritual: the British monarchy, in Hobsbawm, E & Ranger, T. (eds) Invention of Tradition, London. pp. 108.

[65] Hiogo and Osaka News, 1869.

[66] Said, E. 1990. Nationalism, Colonialism and Literature, London. pp. 72.

[67] Rich (1991: 167)

[68] Harold S. Williams Collection, Australian National Library, Canberra.

[69] Courtesy of the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club.

[70] For similar views of the clubs as processing grounds for those in imperial service, see Rich (1991) & Sinha (2001).

[71] Bowen, H. V. 2002: 33, in Gentlemanly Capitalism and the Making of a Global British Empire: Some Connections and Contexts, 1688-1815, in Akita, S (eds) Gentlemanly Capitalism, Imperialism and Global History, London.

[72] Cannadine, D. 1998: 64, in Class in Britain, London.

[73] For a more detailed discussion of the role of the English language press in Japan's treaty ports, see Fält, O. K. 1988. 'Image of Japan in Foreign Newspapers Published in Japan Before the Meiji Restoration', in Nish, I. (eds) Contemporary Writing on Japan, Paul Norbury Publications.

[74] Dunch, R. 2002: 310, in Beyond Cultural Imperialism: Cultural Theory, Christian Missions, and Global Modernity, in History and Theory, Vol. 41, No. 3 (Oct). pp. 301-325.

[75] Perez (1999)

[76] The Kobe Club was in all sense and purpose a 'whites' only club. The clubs entrance policy was unashamedly classist and racist, with the unofficial rule being, no mariners, no Eurasians and no shopkeepers. There were very few Japanese members, and those who were generally held high positions in government, business or industry. A similar discussion on the racial exclusiveness of the clubs can be found in Sinha (2001). As late as the 1970s the Shioya Country Club and Estate proudly advertised that the institution was Kansai's only exclusive 'Caucasian' residence.

[77] Barr, 1965: 245

[78] Hoare, J. 1999: 18, in Treaty Ports, Treaty Revision: Delusions of Grandeur?, in The Revision of Japan's Early Commercial Treaties, The Suntory Centre, November, 1999.

[79] Cain & Hopkins (1987)

[80] Nishihara, D. 2005: 244, in Said, Orientalism, and Japan, in Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, No. 25, Edward Said and Critical Decolonization, pp. 241-253.

[81] Esenbel, S. 1994: 157-158, in The Anguish of Civilized Behavior: The Use of Western Cultural Forms in the Everyday Lives of the Meiji Japanese and the Ottoman Turks During the 19th c., in Japan Review, 5, pp. 145-185.

[82] Ambaras, D. R. 1998. Social Knowledge, Cultural Capital, and the New Middle-Class in Japan, 1895-1912, in Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 24, No. 1. (Winter). pp. 1-33.

[83] Sinha, (2001)

[84] Black, J. R. 1881. Young Japan: Yokohama and Yedo, London. Williams, H. S. Anon. 1933. Kobe: the Premier Port of Japan, 65 years of progress in trade, industry, commerce and shipping, 1868-1933. 1970. The Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club, Kobe.

[85] Hearn, L. 1896. Kokoro: Hints and Echoes of Japanese Inner Life, Boston.

[86] My own fieldwork interviewing Kobe expatriate club members has led me to believe that the international atmosphere of Kobe is often a one-sided phenomenon, with the Japanese often being inconspicuously absent from this 'international community'.

[87] Japan Times, July 20, 2010. 'Expat Clubs boast Bygone Cachet'.

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Darren L. Swanson

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