1861 Sadahide View of Foreigners in Yokohama, Japan

橫濱異人商館之圖 / [View of Foreign Merchant House in Yokohama]. - Main View

1861 Sadahide View of Foreigners in Yokohama, Japan


American - Chinese - Japanese exchange in Yokohama.


橫濱異人商館之圖 / [View of Foreign Merchant House in Yokohama].
  1861 (undated)     13.75 x 30 in (34.925 x 76.2 cm)


An absorbing 1861 depiction of Japanese-foreign interactions in Yokohama, this ukiyo-e triptych was prepared by Sadahide, the great chronicler of the treaty port in its early years, and published by Sanoya Kihei. It is notable, among other features, for revealing the three-way exchange between Westerners, Chinese, and Japanese in Yokohama.
A Closer Look
Displaying a scene in the home of a foreign merchant in Yokohama, this scene presents the lively interaction between Japanese and foreigners that took place in the treaty ports. These free and easy exchanges stood in stark contrast to the recent, strict sakoku 'locked country' policies of the Tokugawa Shogunate. The merchant is most likely meant to be an American, as suggested by the partial flag at top-left, while the figure with the green jacket in the foreground may be a Japanese trader. The use of the term ijin (異人), as opposed to gaijin (外人), which became standard later, demonstrates that the terminology for foreigners and foreign things was still uncertain at this time.

Three Japanese geisha appear in the foreground, along with a Western woman holding an instrument. The instrument is meant to be a violin, but as Sadahide had never seen one, he mistakenly believed it to have been larger than its actual size and plucked like the Japanese shamisen, the instrument being played by the geisha with her back turned to the viewer at center. Here Sadahide appears to be playing on a classic Japanese subject for a woodblock print, a beautiful woman (bijin, namesake for the bijin-e 美人繪 or bijin-ga 美人畫genre of woodblock prints) playing an instrument.

Another notable feature is the inclusion of Chinese figures, recognizable for their queue, the shaved forehead, and long braided ponytail, which was required of all male subjects of the Qing Dynasty. A Western child, no doubt the trader's son, is playing with the queue of one of the Chinese men at bottom-left, though he appears to be taking it in good humor.

Other elements were likely meant by Sadahide to heighten the exoticism of foreigners and foreign things. Most notably, the mysterious painting of camels above the women in the foreground likely reflects the worldview of Westerners abroad in the mid-19th century (the painting itself has been the subject of extensive scholarly attention, though with no clear conclusion as to its origin or meaning; see the recent book by Ayelet Zohar cited below).
Yokohama - Japan's Gateway to the Outside World
Sadahide is most closely associated with Yokohama-e, a genre of nishiki-e (itself a subgenre of uikyo-e) which he largely defined, depicting foreigners and the cultural interactions between Japan and the outside world that took place in Yokohama. Although Japan had reluctantly signed a 'Treaty of Peace and Amity' with the United States in 1854, opening the door for greater foreign presence and influence in Japan, the terms were quite vague until a subsequent treaty, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (also known as the Harris Treaty), was signed in 1858, opening Japanese ports to foreign trade. Other foreign powers piled into Japan to sign similar treaties stipulating rights for their nationals to trade and reside in certain Japanese ports. The most important of these 'treaty ports' were Nagasaki and Yokohama, the former having been a major port for centuries, the latter much less so.

The foreign powers demanded a port near Edo (Tokyo), understanding that the capital itself was not an option. Yokohama was primarily chosen because the most obvious choice, Kanagawa-juku, a nearby coastal station on the Tōkaidō, was opposed by the Shogun. Much like Shanghai in China, Yokohama grew rapidly and became the main conduit for the exchange of people, goods, and ideas between Japan and the outside world.

Artists, Sadahide chief among them, rushed to depict the new visitors, who were regarded with both curiosity and revulsion, but in either case were an object of keen interest throughout Japan. Aside from Western traders, Chinese merchants and workers also resided in Yokohama, establishing an important Chinese community there, still the largest Chinatown in Japan.

As the city itself was a product of the treaty port system, Yokohama was quick to embrace foreign technology, and Japan's first major rail line was opened from Yokohama to Edo (by then renamed Tokyo) in 1872. Eventually, Yokohama would grow to swallow up Kanagawa-juku and other nearby towns, becoming the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture and the second-largest city in Japan.
Nishiki-e (錦繪)
Nishiki-e (literally 'brocade picture', also known as Edo-e 江戸繪 because it began in the Tokugawa capital of Edo) is a style of woodblock printing that developed in the 1760s and revolutionized the medium. Instead of producing a black and white print which was then hand-colored, or perhaps with one or two color blocks added, as had been done previously, nishiki-e prints allowed for the combination of many blocks, each adding one color to a complete image, which were fitted together perfectly. The result was that vibrantly-colored prints could be produced in greater numbers in far less time, allowing for popular distribution of woodblock prints, especially ukiyo-e prints. Nishiki-e remained the dominant mode of woodblock printing through Meiji era and was critical to the distribution of prints (such as Sadahide's) that carried depictions of new technologies and ideas throughout Japan in the mid-late 19th century. But by the Taisho era, lithographic machine printing had advanced to the point that woodblock prints could not compete, and the tradition continued as a niche art rather than a means of mass media.
Publication History and Census
This view was drawn by Sadahide and published by Sanoya Kihei (佐野屋喜兵衛) in Edo in 1861. It is held by the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Museum of Asian Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Library, the Yokohama Archives of History, the Edo-Tokyo Museum, the Kobe Municipal Museum, and the Musées Royaux d'Art et d'Histoire in Belgium, and is scarce to the market.


Sadahide Hashimoto (橋本貞秀; ハシモト, サダヒデ; 1807 - 1878), also known as Gountei Sadahide (五雲亭貞秀) and Hashimoto Gyokuran (橋本玉蘭), was a Japanese artist active in Yokohama in the second half of the 19th century. He was born in Chiba Prefecture. Hashimoto is best known for his renderings of foreigners, in particular Western peoples and customs, as observed while living in the open port of Yokohama. He is considered to be a disciple of Takako Kunisada, another artist of the Toyokuni Utagawa school, earning him the name Utagawa Sadahide (歌川貞秀). Hashimoto met Kunisada in 1826, when he was 14 years old and most of his early work reflects the work of Kunisada. Even before the Bankumatsu period, Sadahide took an interest in distant and foreign lands, publishing an important and controversial account of the First Opium War between Britain and Qing China (Kaigai Shinwa, 海外新話) with the scholar Mineta Fūkō (嶺田楓江). Following the 'opening of Japan' in 1853, he produced a series of prints of Ainu people in Kita Ezo zusetsu (北蝦夷図説) as well as a world map that was likely based on a Dutch original (https://www.geographicus.com/P/AntiqueMap/world-mineta-1853), also with Mineta. He developed an interest in geography and began issuing maps and bird's-eye views, some quite large over multiple panels, of Japanese cities. At the very end of the Tokugawa period, he moved to Nagasaki and was selected as part of a Japanese delegation to the International Exposition of 1867. Sadahide died about a decade later, living long enough to see the rapid transofrmation of Japan following the Meiji Restoration. He was a mentor to Hideki Utagawa. More by this mapmaker...

Sanoya Kihei (佐野屋喜兵衛; fl. c. 1717 - 1875) was a multigenerational publishing house based in Edo (Tokyo). Little is known about the firm, and despite its long tenure, most of its known works date to an active period between the 1830s and 1850s. They were closely associated with the Utagawa School of nishiki-e woodblock print artists in the late Edo period. The firm was also known for publishing popular fiction in the genre of Kusazōshi (草双紙). Learn More...


Good. Some wear around edge. Light water staining at bottom. Several small tears around border professionally repaired.


Zohar, A., The Curious Case of the Camel in Modern Japan: (De)Colonialism, Orientalism, and Imagining Asia (Brill, 2022), 79-83. Art Institute of Chicago Reference No. 1926.1784. Metropolitan Museum of Art Accession Number 2007.49.132. National Museum of Asian Art Accession Number S1991.152a-c.