1850-1884: Years preceding the first Japanese restaurant in London

So if 1884 saw the first Japanese restaurant in London, what happened leading up to that. After all, Japan had been shut off from the rest of the world until 1854 when the US fleet of Commander Perry finally negotiated a trade agreement with the Tokugawa shogunate called the Treaty of Kanagawa.

This was soon followed by the British, who agreed an Anglo-Japanese friendship treaty in the same year in Nagasaki (where trade had been uniquely continuing, during the 200 years of isolation, with the Dutch and Chinese) and followed this with its own Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1958. Beyond commerce, this treaty permitted Britons to live in Edo (now Tokyo) from 1862 and Osaka from 1863.

Of course I have no idea currently how the Japanese ended up in the UK but pretty much as soon as Japan opened up, people started to travel in both directions. Here is a rather dry but useful list of Britons who were Emissaries up to 1900. Some of these people or those they worked with must have been associated with such efforts

James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin 1858 1858
Sir Rutherford Alcock 1859 1864.
Sir Harry Parkes 1865 1883
Sir Francis Plunkett 1884 1887
Hugh Fraser 1889 1894
Power Henry Le Poer Trench 1894 1895
Sir Ernest Satow 1895 1900

Rutherford Alcock is of note for setting up the first legation (one step down from an embassy) in Tozen-Ji, a temple in Takanawa near Shinagawa (in Tokyo). 

  • The temple site is still there but the original buildings were lost in the War. Alcock is apparently the first recorded foreigner to climb Mt. Fuji and his successor's wife, Lady Parkes the first foreign lady to ascend.

Hugh Fraser is also of interest, not least because he died in Japan and his grave is in Aoyama cemetery.  

Ernest Satow was one of the most significant Briton emissaries in terms of time spent in Japan and thus time to accumulate detailed knowledge was .

  • Satow actually lived in Japan from 1862-1883 followed by 1895-1900. That makes 25 years in total, a far greater length of experience than most modern-day diplomats and business-men experience there. His book 'A Diplomat in Japan' is still in print (£14.50 on Amazon!)

Experience was not limited to diplomats either. Josiah Conder, a british architect was chosen by the Royal Institute of British Architects for the post of professor of architecture at the Imperial College of Engineering, in Tokyo. 

And in the opposite direction, Japan sent its first Embassy to Europe in 1862. Incredibly, in 1863 the first five Japanese came to study at Univeristy College London. They were known as the Choshu Five, having been sent over by the powerful Choshu Domain (Clan).

They were followed by members of the Satsuma Domain in 1865.

See here for more details

According to the venerable Wikipedia and associated references 264 citizens of Japan resided in Britain in 1884, the majority of whom identified themselves as officials and students. But a few were probably chefs!