Thursday, May 28, 2009

Yokohama 150th Anniversary

150 years ago, Yokohama was a fishing village with 100 households facing a sandy beach with muddy lands and lots of mosquitoes. Basically a not healthy location. The shogunate chose the desolate site to open a foreign trading port precisely to keep Western merchants from Japanese and their daily business.

On July 29, 1858, Japan and the United States of America signed a Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Similar treaties were later signed with Russia, the Netherlands, Britain and France. These treaties opened the ports of Yokohama, Hakodate, Niigata, Kobe, and Nagasaki to the outside world. The opening of these ports introduced foreign cultures to Japan and helped bring about the modernization of Japan. 

With the arrival of Commodore Perry and his Black Ships in 1853, Japan opened its doors to the world. The following year, Perry and the Edo Shogunate signed the Kanagawa Treaty and Japan officially became an open country. In 1858 the Treaty of Amity and Commerce was signed, allowing for the Port of Yokohama to open in 1859. 2009 marks the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama. 

A pioneering spirit existed in Yokohama as people from all around Japan and the world moved to the port city. Yokohama was now an important intercultural base that connected Japan to the rest of the world and a symbol of the new and modern Japan. These Pioneers created a unique and international culture while achieving success in various fields. It is no exaggeration to say that the modernization of Japan began with the Port Opening of Yokohama. (Cityhall information)

Today Yokohama has a population of 3.64 million people. Yokohama would like to tell the world that on this 150th Anniversary, the future of Yokohama is filled with hope and that we want to share our dream of the future with the world. This Commemorative Ceremony is to honor the Pioneers who have established the base for today’s prosperity. We will take this opportunity to celebrate this turning point of Japanese history and develop further into the future. (Cityhall information)

Observing the 150th anniversary of the port's opening, Yokohama organizes several activities and today is the first day. Among many beauties of the harbor town, the Yamashita park, the modern Minato-Mirai, and the endless stroll in the town designed with  "un je ne sais quoi d'esprit français." 

Yokohama extended relations with several  sister cities such as Bombay, San Diego, Shanghai, Vancouver and Lyon, France since 1959. The Lyonnais, led by Mayor Gérard Collomb well-known for his fruitful alliance's alchemy from food business to high-technology, are to come to celebrate this 50th anniversary with their Japanese counterparts , end of this month.

One of the other numerous assets of the town is... its little China town, and the beautiful sea-view from Yamate Hill with its old houses from the 19th century and an old cemetery for foreigners. Some quiet luxurious properties for rich expatriates founded a new architectural style. A "very chic" area with posh houses and elite schools such as the Saint-Maur International and French school. Yokohama also is a city with a huge suburb, golf courses, welcoming Kanagawa prefecture residents and Tokyo workers at lower cost. Yokohama certainly is of the most pleasant harbor town in Japan with Nagasaki, Kobe or Fukuoka.

The Cuauhtemoc, a training ship of the Mexican Navy enters Yokohama harbor

Superb ship and view but I am not sure that it is the best gesture of friendship these days. Naturally, PR agents may voice their opinions. Still a doubt lingers in my mind. Commemorating the anniversary of the beginning of Japanese-Mexican relations, a 1,800-ton tall ship from the Mexican Navy called at Yokohama port yesterday. The training vessel Cuauhtemoc initially planned to visit the port of Osaka, but the plan was canceled after the swine flu epidemic hit Osaka and surrounding areas, sickening hundreds of residents. The swine flu outbreak started in Mexico in mid-March; the Cuauhtemoc left Mexico in February and all 264 of its crew members are in good health, quarantine officials at Yokohama port said.

Unfortunately, most of the events of this 150 anniversary are  in Japanese languages, a minor flop when one celebrates internationalization, desho? (Click the title to access the festivities agenda)

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