British Life in Japan

  • Olive Checkland


The Britons who sought to make a life for themselves in newly opened Japan attempted as far as possible to establish conditions of living similar to those which they had enjoyed at home. The foreign communities included men of many Western nationalities who sought to create in Japan replicas of the middle class societies in which they had been raised.1 Many professions and a wide variety of business interests were represented. At the core of the foreign settlements were the commercial men of all ranks who either worked for themselves or for their compatriots.2 They had come to Japan to further their career prospects, and perhaps for adventure, but they concentrated as far as possible in recreating familiar mores and customs in their new settlements. The missionaries, another identifiable group, lived alongside their merchant neighbours, endeavouring to uphold Christian morals and standards.3 Those foreign experts who were employed by the Japanese government on short-term contracts were another cadre who lived in tied houses at their place of work, outside the treaty port, but they relied on their compatriots in the foreign settlements for some of their social life. The corps of consuls and diplomats had their own shared concerns and as national representatives commanded a high status.


Foreign Resident Open City Japanese Official Docking Ship Foreign Community 
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Notes and References

  1. 21.
    J. Conder, ‘Report on the Teaching of Architecture’ in H. Dyer, General Report of ICE, 1877, p. 13.Google Scholar
  2. 23.
    J. P. Mollison, ‘Reminiscences of Yokohama’, Lecture, 8 January 1909, p. 7 (copy in Yokohama Archives of History).Google Scholar
  3. 27.
    D. W. Smith, European Settlements in the Far East, 1900, p. 31.Google Scholar
  4. 50.
    The origin of the story has attracted much speculation, some believe the original ‘Butterfly’ was Tsuru Yamamura who married Thomas Glover, see M. Carnes, Puccini, 1974, pp. 125–6, see alsoGoogle Scholar
  5. J. P. Lehmann, ‘Images of the Orient’, English National Opera/Royal Opera House Guide to Madam Butterfly, 1984, pp. 7–14; andGoogle Scholar
  6. J. P. Lehmann, Japan and the West in the Shadow of Madam Butterfly, in Scottish Opera Programme for Madam Butterfly 1987; the author is indebted to Roger Witts for his help.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Olive Checkland 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olive Checkland
    • 1
  1. 1.University of GlasgowUK

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