“The Japanese and things Japanese will become not only the cynosure of British eyes, but indeed the centre of interest for visitors pouring from the countries of Europe and the two continents of America. No event in days of peace and tranquility has yet contributed so greatly towards advertising Japan as the Anglo-Japanese Exhibition will do.”
– The Graphic, Tokyo, May, 1910
The 1910 Japan-British exhibition (more widely-know as ‘the Japanese exhibition’ as there was minimal British content) was held at the White City in Shepherd’s Bush, London, from 14 May to 29 October, 1910. The exhibition marked a milestone in the history of Japan’s participation in international exhibitions since, as it was Japan’s first joint exhibition with a European country, it presented visitors in London with an up-to-date picture of Japan. The Exhibition would also be an occasion to celebrate the on-going Anglo-Japanese Alliance, signed in 1902 and which would last for twenty years. Despite being held as a joint exhibition, by inviting Japanese exhibits and placing them in London for European visitors, the exhibition became, in effect, Japan’s introduction to the West. During its six-month run, the Exhibition is said to have attracted over 8,000,000 visitors.
The Exhibition re-used many of the larger pavilion structures (e.g. the Court of Honour, Court of Progress) first built for the 1908 Franco-British Exhibition held on the same grounds. Still, Japan’s visualization as a panorama by the Western audience was exemplified all over the exhibition grounds. A variety of aspects of Japanese lives was on display in the form of toy-sized miniatures, including models of Tokyo and the Shogun Mausoleum at Shiba temple; the small scale enabled Japan to present more accurate and all-encompassing panoramas. The Japanese Garden, in this regard, was one of the most important displays. To show that Japan was an imperial power, just as Britain was, displays from her colonies and the Ainu and Taiwanese aborigines were brought over. In order to promote Japan as a peace-loving nation, numerous rare and high quality retrospective arts and elaborate traditional architecture models were exhibited and two authentic Japanese gardens were created at the site. At the same time, in order to promote trade, Japanese products and goods, including crafts, from many companies and artisans were exhibited. Many accompanying books, leaflets and catalogs were also published.
“Europeans and Americans have come to take the keenest interest in the institutions, civilization, industry, customs and manners and general characteristics of our people, but it appears that as yet, the real Japan is not sufficiently known.”
– Japan Today, official souvenir booklet, 1910
There were some 2,271 Japanese exhibitors. Almost 500 leading Japanese firms sent items to London. Each of the Japanese government ministries was represented, along with the Japanese Red Cross and the post office, showing displays of the modern systems and facilities used by the governmental departments. Care was taken only to display the highest possible quality, to offset popular images that Japanese products were cheaply made and tawdry. In addition to manufactured goods, traditional and modern fine arts, and arts and crafts were well represented. One of the most popular craftsmen actually in the Exhibition was Horikawa Kozan, a celebrated potter. He was invited to demonstrate pottery-making and repair priceless antiquities, some of which had been in the possession of British collectors for generations.