Foreign Settlements (外国人居留地)

The term "foreign settlement" ("gaikokujin kyoryuchi" in Japanese) refers to one of the demarcated areas of land created by the government that were specifically set aside as places in which foreigners could reside and trade. In Japan during the modern era, the Five-Power treaties, including the 1858 Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan, called for the establishment of settlements in places where ports were opened; these settlements continued to exist until being abolished by the revision of the treaties in 1899. Such foreign settlements are also referred to simply as "settlements."


Dejima (for the Dutch) and Tojin yashiki (an Edo-period residential area for Chinese people in Nagasaki), which were established in the city of Nagasaki during the period of national isolation, were also a kind of foreign settlement. The Dutch at Dejima and the Chinese at Tojin yashiki were not permitted to leave their settlements and enter the urban districts of Nagasaki without good reason. When the Treaty of Peace and Amity between the United States and Japan was concluded in 1854, two ports, namely Shimoda and Hakodate, were opened to US merchant vessels in order to provide them with fuel and drinking water, and under the Treaty of Peace and Amity between England and Japan, Nagasaki and Hakodate were opened to England, but under these treaties foreigners were not permitted to reside in Japan. The treaties of Peace and Amity later concluded between Russia and the Netherlands also had the same restriction.

The Ansei Five-Power Treaties

The Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) concluded a Treaty of Amity and Commerce with the United States in 1858, before going on to conclude four more such treaties with England, France, Russia and the Netherlands. The generic name for these treaties is "the Ansei Five-Power Treaties." These five treaties called for the opening of the cities of Tokyo and Osaka and of five ports, namely Hakodate (the modern-day city of Hakodate), Kanagawa (today's Kanagawa ward in the city of Yokohama), Nagasaki, Hyogo (currently Hyogo ward in the city of Kobe) and Niigata, and also permitted foreigners to live and trade in these areas. In the case of Kanagawa-juku ("way-station"), the port that was actually opened was in the village of Yokohama (today's Naka ward in the city of Yokohama) which was quite far from the path of the main road, and similarly in the case of Hyogo, the port opened was in the village of Kobe (modern-day Chuo ward of the city of Kobe) which was also far from the main road, but in any case foreigners were allowed to rent land in certain sections of the ports and to purchase buildings or build houses, warehouses, and trading houses. Foreigners in these settlement were allowed to leave the premises and travel freely out to a range of about 40 kilometers, and in addition they remained protected by extraterritoriality even while out of the settlements. Trade between foreigners and Japanese merchants was only permitted within these settlements. This was the true beginning of foreign settlements in Japan.

Tsukiji Settlement

Tokyo was opened not as a port, but as a market; in 1869, a foreign settlement was established in Tsukiji Teppozu. Today this area corresponds to the region of Akashicho town in Chuo ward (Tokyo). However, the foreign firms in the Yokohama settlement did not relocate from Yokohama, and so it was mainly churches and mission schools of Christian missionaries that came to the Tsukiji settlement. As such, the settlement was the birthplace of Aoyama Gakuin, Rikkyo Gakuin, Meiji Gakuin and Joshi St. Gakuin (all schools). In addition, the settlement featured many foreign diplomatic offices; the Legation of the United States of America was established there in 1875 and remained there until it was relocated to what is now Akasaka (Minato ward, Tokyo) in 1890. Tsukiji settlement, like extraterritoriality, was abolished in 1899.

Yokohama Settlement

The Treaties of Amity and Commerce concluded between the Five Powers had stipulated that the port to be opened would be Kanagawa, but the shogunate, concerned that conflicts between the foreigners and local Japanese would multiply if foreigners were permitted to live and work in Kanagawa-juku, which was right on the Tokaido Road (Japan's main East-West highway) and was one of the way-station towns (Shukuba machi in Japanese) in frequent use by travelers, decided on its own initiative to change the port to be opened to isolated Yokohama village, which was far from the path of the Tokaido Road. Rutherford Alcock and other members of the diplomatic corps in England and the United States protested strongly that this change violated the treaty provisions, but Bakufu pressed its case by insisting that Yokohama was also a part of Kanagawa.

The port of Yokohama was officially opened on July 4, 1859, and the Yamashita settlement, which had Yamashitacho town (Yokohama city) at its center, was completed in four years. Since the shogunate had created Yokohama settlement on its own initiative, the settlement was initially constructed in Japanese style, but after the great fire of 1866 called the "Buta ya kaji" (so named because the fire started in a pork merchant's establishment), the settlement was rebuilt in Western style. This reconstruction, begun by the shogunate, was later taken over by the Meiji government. The settlement was surrounded by a trench, and a sekisho (barrier checkpoint station) was established near the bridge at the entrance, and hence it came to be called Kannai settlement ("Kannai" means "inside the checkpoint"). The population of foreigners in the settlement continued to expand in later years, leading to the additional establishment of Yamate (today part of Yokohama city) to the south in 1867. Yamashita settlement essentially became a business district lined with foreign firms, while Yamate settlement became the foreign residential area. With the exception of the former Seventh building of England (built in 1922), all of the various Western-style buildings that now line Main Street in Yamate, a popular sightseeing destination today, were either constructed in or after the Showa period as tourist attractions or relocated there from other spots.

In the summer of 1862, in what came to be known as the Namamugi Incident, four English men and women of Yokohama settlement on their way to see Heiken-ji Temple by horse were cut down in Namamugi village (today's Tsurumi ward of the city of Yokohama) by warriors in the Satsuma Daimyo's procession, an event that deeply shook the shogunate. The area around foreign settlements had become quite dangerous due to the fact that ronin (masterless samurai) supporting the joi (expulsion of foreigners) doctrine began to congregate near the settlements at the end of Edo period, and as a result, incidents in which foreigners were stabbed to death became quite frequent. In order to protect the residents of the settlements, British and French troops were stationed in the settlements until 1875.

In 1872, under the leadership of Edmund Morel of England, Japan's first railway line was opened, running between Shinbashi and Yokohama. Yokohama Station in those days corresponds to the present-day Sakuragicho Station and was located right in front of the settlement, while Shimbashi Station (today's Shiodome) was just outside of Tsukiji settlement, described elsewhere. In other words, the first railway in Japan was built to connect the Yokohama and Tsukiji foreign settlements.

Kawaguchi Settlement

Kawaguchi settlement was the foreign settlement established in the city of Osaka during the same period that the port of Kobe and the city of Tokyo were also opened.

It was also called Osaka settlement or Osaka Kawaguchi settlement. This settlement was a place in which missionaries of each branch of Christianity settled, built a church, and proselytized; as a part of such activities, many famous missionary schools were established there. The settlement was located in the vicinity of the administrative center for both Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City in the Meiji and Taisho periods.

For more information, see the article on "the former Kawaguchi Settlement."

Kobe Settlement

The Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) repeatedly postponed the opening of the port in Hyogo, citing the fact that it was in the Kinai region (the five capital provinces surrounding the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto) and thus close to Kyoto, where the Emperor lived, and pointing out the region was dangerously unstable due to the strong joi ("expulsion of foreigners") sentiment there. Yet in reality, it seems the shogunate's true motivation may have been to keep foreigners away from Osaka, the economic heart of Japan at the time. As a result, the port of Kobe was finally opened on January 1, 1868, ten years after the promulgation of the treaties.

In order to ward off conflicts between the foreigners and Japanese, the location of the port to be opened and its accompanying foreign settlement was made the village of Kobe, which at that time was 3.5 kilometers east of the urban area of Hyogo. Considering the shogunate's desire to isolate the foreigners, the spot was ideal: it was hemmed in by rivers to the east and west, by the Saigoku-kaido Road to the north, and by the sea to the south. The British civil engineer J.W. Hart designed the layout of the settlement, which was equipped with check-patterned streets, roadside trees, parks, street lamps, and sewers; the settlement was divided into 126 blocks, and on July 24, 1868, the first auction of the land to foreigners was held. All of the blocks were owned by foreigners and thus subject to the laws of extraterroriality, meaning the settlement was a true concession that Japanese nationals were severely restricted in entering. In its day, the Kobe settlement was known as the most beautiful and well-designed settlement in the Orient. Today, the well-organized streets remain exactly as they were originally designed. The foreigners' self-governing organization in Kobe settlement, called the Kyoryuchi kaigi (Settlement Council), functioned very well, and it possessed its own dedicated police force. In 1868 a race track was built north of the settlement to the east of Ikuta-jinja Shrine, but was abandoned a few years later.

The foreign settlement in Kobe was restored to Japanese sovereignty in 1899 following the revision of the unequal treaties.

The urban areas of Kobe were devastated by the great air raids in 1945, so building No. 15 of the former settlement (the former consulate of the United States, and an important cultural property of Japan) was the only building left standing among those built in the settlement period (that is, before 1899) in the western area of the settlement, which corresponds to the vicinity of the present-day city hall of Kobe; most of the modern-era buildings that remain standing were built in the Taisho period. However, because the settlement was quite crowded, starting in about 1880 many foreign residences were built near the town of Kitano-cho on Yamamoto-dori street, in what is now a Preservation District for Groups of Historic Buildings (or "Judenken" [Groups of Historic Buildings] in Japanese), and as a happy consequence the foreign residences built in this area escaped damage during the war. These surviving houses are known today as the Kobe Ijinkan (former foreign residences).

Nagasaki Settlement

The port of Nagasaki, which had functioned as a trading hub since the beginning of the period of national isolation, was opened internationally in 1854. In the first years its role was simply to provide fuel and drinking water to any foreign ships that arrived; it was then opened officially in 1859, whereupon land was reclaimed from the coastal Oura area starting in 1860 and the settlement was founded. Construction was completed in 1870. The settlement was in the vicinity of Higashiyamate, Minamiyamate (Judenken), and had the Glover residence at its heart. Nagasaki was the only port that had been open to international trading since the Edo period, and as such the settlement had flourished due to the large number of foreigners who had taken up unofficial residence there; beginning in the Meiji period, however, it saw comparatively little development, and indeed prospered more as a sort of health resort for foreigners living in Shanghai and other concessions in China rather than as a settlement in its own right. Trading company facilities and warehouses were constructed in the areas of the settlement near the coast in order to promote trade, while hotels, banks, hospitals and entertainment facilities lined the streets in the center of the settlement; Western-style houses and consulates were constructed in the Yamate area, which featured beautiful views. In addition, the fact that Unzen onsen (hot spring) was located in the neighborhood made the settlement more attractive for visitors as a health resort. The atmosphere of the settlement period can still be sensed today at the sight of its remaining Western-style houses, stone paving, and stone steps. A settlement festival is held in the city of Nagasaki every year in the middle of September.

Hakodate and Niigata

American ships had been allowed to dock since 1854, and in 1859 the port of Hakodate was officially opened, with the area of Motomachi set aside for the settlement. In 1868 the pro-bakufu rebel army occupied Hakodate, leading to the outbreak of the Hakodate War at Goryokaku. The various foreign countries remained neutral in this conflict. The settlement at Hakodate essentially existed in name only, as in reality the foreigners lived mixed together (with locals) in Hakodate's urban areas. Even today, the warehouses made of red bricks as well as the Catholic and Orthodox churches of the former settlement still remain.

The port of Niigata on the Sea of Japan (northern) side had been developed as an anchoring site for Kitamae-bune (cargo ships that sailed the Japan Sea) in the Edo period and was opened internationally in 1868; however, as few foreigners came and settled there, no particular settlement was established, and foreigners were permitted to live together in Niigata's urban areas.

Trade in the Settlements

Immediately after the ports of Hakodate, Yokohama, and Nagasaki were opened, they turned into boom-towns in a strange phenomenon that became known as a "gold rush." At the time, the international exchange rate of gold to silver was 1:15, but it was 1:5 in Japan. In other words, in Japan gold was cheap and silver was extremely valuable.
(This was due to the fact that the shogunate had granted a sort of credit currency value to Japan's silver.)
As a result, merely by bringing some of the silver circulating in the treaty port of China into Japan and exchanging it for gold and then taking that gold back to China and exchanging it for silver, people had found a very easy way by which to get rich quick. It was thought that even diplomats--who were forbidden from engaging in commerce--traded in this way. When the Edo bakufu noticed the situation and started to reform the currency system, a large amount of gold began flowing out of Japan, which created severe inflation in the city of Edo.

In the final years of the Edo period, when political tensions were continually at their peak, arms and warships were the main goods Japan imported. It was Nagasaki where the arms merchant Thomas Glover sold arms to Choshu and Satsuma Domains. To meet Japan's goal of modernization, the importation of the latest weapons and machinery continued into the Meiji period. To counteract these hefty imports, the only products Japan could export were Japanese (green) tea and raw silk thread. Consequently, the only way to eliminate the trade deficit was by finding a solution to the gold and silver problem. To accomplish this, the Meiji government, which was promoting the message of fukoku kyohei (rich country, strong military), focused on nurturing new industries and stepped up construction of various facilities including the silk mills of Tomioka.

Settlement Culture

The settlements in the opened ports were a sort of window into the wonders of the west for Japan, which had long been isolated from the world, and functioned as strongholds of enlightenment and civilization. These western-style towns with their hotels, churches, and western-style houses became symbols of fashionable ("high-collar") western culture. New urban areas in Yokohama and Kobe sprang up around the settlements, and with that, high-collar western culture was born for the inhabitants of Yokohama and Kobe.

In Yokohama settlement a magazine called "The Japan Punch" began publication in 1862 and continued for 25 years, until 1887. This magazine was published by Charles Wirgman, who had come to Japan as a correspondent for the "Illustrated London News"; the Japan Punch became famous for its cartoons. There were about 2000 people living in the settlement, and according to the Japan Punch, foreigners enjoyed watching horse racing at Negishi Racetrack; other popular sports included tennis, racket ball, cricket (among the English), and baseball (among the Americans). Many kinds of sports were first introduced into Japan from the foreign settlements. Moreover, English-language newspapers were published in Yokohama, Kobe and Nagasaki.

Horse Racing in the Settlements

Western-style horse racing was first conducted by the foreigners living in Yokohama settlement beginning in 1861, and the practice flourished even more after the Yokohama horse-racing track was built in 1866. The same kind of horse race was also held in Kobe settlement for several years beginning in 1868. This kind of horse racing was dubbed Settlement horse racing, and became the root of modern-day horse racing in Japan in the sense that the current system of competition was adopted from the Settlement racing system.

The Settlements and Overseas Chinese Residents

Chinatowns were founded in the settlements in Yokohama, Kobe, and Nagasaki (Kobe's Chinatown was founded on land adjoining the settlement); these three have developed into the three major Chinatowns in Japan today. Chinatowns sprang up because at first most foreign merchants came to Japan from the treaty port concessions of China, and as Japanese people could understand written Chinese characters Chinese compradors accompanied the merchants as translators. Thereafter, once sea routes for ocean liners between Japan and every treaty port in China were established, Chinese merchants (overseas Chinese, or "kakyo" in Japanese) entered the market by themselves.

Historically, the Chinese, just like the Dutch, had been trading with the Japanese in Nagasaki for a very long time; their trading activities were conducted at the Tojin yashiki. Many of the overseas Chinese who entered Kobe were wealthy traders; they settled in the town of Kitanocho and to the west of it. This is the reason why the unusual step was taken of moving Kantei byo Shrine in Kobe from Kobe Nankin–machi (Kobe's Chinatown) to the residential area in Yamate.

Most of the overseas Chinese who came to Yokohama ran restaurants, and as a result the area of the Chinatown in Yokohama expanded.

The Demise of the Settlements

In many ways the settlements were quite convenient for the Japanese government, for example because they kept foreigners settled in certain specific places and thus helped prevent conflict with local Japanese, but as they were the fruit of the unequal treaties and demanded extraterritoriality and consular jurisdiction for their inhabitants, they were unacceptable with respect to national prestige. Among the various settlements, two were restored to Japanese sovereignty due to escalating maintenance costs for the great powers maintaining them, namely Nagasaki in 1876 and Yokohama in 1877, but the other settlements continued unchanged. The Meiji government exerted great effort to revise the treaties in order to regain sovereignty over the remaining settlements, but one nationalist faction began a movement to insist that on the contrary, Japanese tradition and culture would be best protected by continuing to confine foreigners to the settlements, rendering the situation still more complex. However, with the revision of the treaties, all of the settlements in Japan were restored to Japanese sovereignty together in 1899. The ports of those cities with settlements developed rapidly during the settlement period; Kobe, in particular, leapt ahead of Shanghai and Hong Kong to become the largest port in the Orient.

After the treaties were revised, foreigners were allowed to'live mixed together (with locals) in towns' and travel restrictions were lifted. Nonetheless, in Yokohama and Kobe, trade continued to be largely centered around the areas of the former settlements.

Other Features of the Foreign Settlements

In an exception to the general rule, foreigners with jobs in Japan were allowed to live outside the settlements.

The foreign settlements in Japan were basically identical to the concessions ("sokai" in Japanese) founded in the treaty ports of China around the same period; as a result, the concessions in China were also generally referred to in Japan as "foreign settlements" until the 1920s.

[Original Japanese]