Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Exhibitions - The Japanese Village

The novel idea of bringing over to this country, not only the shops, dwellings, tea-houses and even the temple of Japanese design and make, but with these native artists and craftsmen and their families, and of planting the little colony in the heart of London, has been carried out with thoroughness and good taste, as far as could be judged from what was to be seen at a private view yesterday. The very exhibition, fairly enough described as "A Japanese Village" at Albert-gate, Knightsbridge, will be opened this afternoon, under Royal and distinguished patronage, by Sir Rutherford Alcock, for many years Consul-General for this country in Japan. Of course in such a climate as this it was felt to be necessary that the buildings should be under cover, as much far the sake of visitors as for the health and comfort of the interesting strangers, who, in their loose, flowing national costumes form not the least picturesque element in the scene from the Far East now presented in the interior of Humphreys'-hall. Every provision, indeed, seems to have been made by the promoter and manager of the enterprise. Mr. Tannaker Buhicrosan (whose wife is a Japanese), to provide for the welfare of the inhabitants of his colony, numbering altogether over a hundred persons, of whom 26 are women and children. On entering the hall the visitor finds himself in a broad street, as it were, of shops and houses, from which rows of smaller shops, forming narrow lanes, are laid out to the right. These are not mere painted fronts but well-built apartments of varied appearance, each with its own characteristic ornamentation of parti-coloured bamboo, on solid panels, with shingled or thatched roof, and with sliding trellis-shutters and translucent paper screens to serve as a substitute for glass in cold weather. For the rows placed against the sides of the hall, effective landscapes, in which the world-known Fusi-yama appears now and again, have been painted by native artists, whose clever manipulation of two brushes, one in each hand, will be seen with astonishment by many. Groups of the artisans, who are of all ages, from mere boys to men of 50 or 60 apparently, were to be seen yesterday in front of the shops or in some cases squatting on the thickly-stuffed and scrupulously clean mats, 6ft. by 3½ft. in dimensions, of which the number packed on the floor space denotes the size of the house, and the unwary stumbled over the thick-soled pattens or sandals left in front of the shop by the inmates. A few of the European visitors, accommodating themselves to the ways of the natives except in the matter of removing the shoes, sat cross- legged as best they could on the mats, to be served with tiny cups of tea by a smiling and most polite little maiden whose chevelure of jetty black could only be matched by one of her sisters of the East. Disappointment will assuredly be felt, by some of the lady visitors when they see the quaint and fanciful productions at the hairpin makers and other artificers of pretty trifles, by the determination of the management not to permit anything to be sold, at all events until near the time for closing the exhibition. It has been thought best, however, not to make the affair a bazaar.
    The most important industrial processes to be shown in operation include the lacquering of wood, pottery-making and decoration, cloisonné work on copper foundations, carving of ivory and wood, the inlaying of ivory, mother of pearl, and metal, the carving of hardened clay, lantern making and painting, fan-making, and the not less useful trade of umbrella making. Then in textile and allied manufactures there will be shown spinning and hand-loom weaving and embroidery of large and small pieces of silk, satin, and crepe. Among other trades to be followed are sandal-making, pipe-making, letter-block-making, and coopering. It may please students of music to know that a teacher of that art has hung out his sign at one house, and this seemed to be a favourite meeting-place with the cheerful Japanese, who were for the most part making holiday yesterday. Two shops are filling with very ingeniously imitated and brightly-coloured fish and bird-form pin-cushions. In the long house on the left of the entrance are two extraordinary pieces of carving in wood, with ivory and metal additions, one representing the god of lightning shooting forth into the clouds in zigzag lines the contents of several discs which are set at intervals round a hoop, and the other, more diabolic in expression if possible, and with a double row of pointed teeth, a Japanese Boreas. Here, too, are lacquered hats worn by followers of daimios; a ceremonial sceptre of carved wood; decorative pieces of carved and baked clay,  of fine texture and ringing when struck almost like metal;  agricultural implements; a two-handed sword, of which the scabbard forms the lower part and the long handle the top of  a crutch to rest the pole of a litter on, the weapon thus serving a double purpose in the hands of the savant of a great man. At different points in the hall are a handsomely-caparisoned and spiritedly modelled so-called sacred horse, from a temple, and an allegorical piece of carving from Yeddo of a dragon attempting to swallow the Sword of Justice. There is one house, like the others, slightly reduced in scale, in design, furnishing, and decoration, similar to those in which welt-to-do people of the middle class live. The most elaborately decorated interior, however, is that of a Buddhist temple, in which the two priests who accompany the travellers will perform their devotions at suitable hours, but it is satisfactory to know that there is no intention of making a show of their religious ceremonies. There are some good specimens of bronze altar vessels, gift-boxes for pious remembrances of the deceased, carved lanterns, images of Buddha and sacred personages, and on the the outer walls several remarkable paintings suggested by the older beliefs of the people. Near the temple are two tea houses, in which a concession has been made to European prejudices by the supply of chairs and table stands for the lacquered trays, on which Japanese tea will be served by Japanese waitresses in loose-sleeved and highly-becoming robes of unobtrusive colours.
    Another view of Japanese life will be presented in a second hall fitted up with a stage or platform on which fencing and wrestling and other performances will take place . . . . . After remaining in London through the spring our Japanese visitors are to proceed to the Continent where they will settle for a time in Berlin, and possibly visit Paris and other large cities

The Times, Jan 10, 1885

London at the present time possesses no public lounging-place so pleasantly picturesque as the Japanese Village erected by a cheery band of Japanese opposite Knightsbridge barracks, and near the top of Sloane-street. In this wintry weather, it is particularly enjoyable to drop into the Japanese Village; to stroll past the bamboo houses and shops, so neatly constructed that many will wish to transplant some of the dainty chalets to town gardens for Summer Houses; to watch the dextrous mechanics artistically working; to be refreshed by five o'clock tea; and to be made to laugh uproariously by the singularly grotesque wrestling and single-stick, dancing and muscial performances of the Japanese company in their little theatre. Mr. Augustus Harris laughed so merrily at the quaintness of the deliberate wrestling that very shortly Mr. Harry Nicholls and Mr. Herbert Campbell will presumably be imitating the strangely comic poses of the Japanese athletes in "Whittington," at Drury-Lane Theatre.

Penny Illustrated Paper, January 17, 1885

Close to Albert Gate was the Japanese Village, destroyed by fire in 1885.

Herbert Fry, London, 1889

ONE THOUSAND POUNDS will be PAID to any person or persons who can prove that any of the inhabitants or employés of the JAPANESE VILLAGE, Albert-gate, Hyde-park, have, since their arrival in England in November last, suffered from smallpox or any other contagious or infectious disease, a false, unfounded, and malicious report being circulated by some evil-disposed person or persons that they have been so afflicted being utterly untrue and without foundation.
(Signed) TANNAKER BUHICROSAN, Managing Director.
Japanese Village, Albert-gate, Hyde-Park, 27 March, 1885

advertisement in The Times, March 30th, 1885

THE JAPANESE VILLAGE. - To-day will be opened to the public the new Japanese Village, which has been erected at Albert-gate, Hyde Park, on the site of the village which was some months ago destroyed by fire. The space covered by the new village is twice as large as that which was occupied by its predecessor, and the whole of the buildings are of a more solid and permanent character than before. The structure in which the village has been erected is of brick and ironwork with a concrete floor, and large iron girders supported by ornamental iron pillars; and there are four entrances and exits. The village itself is very much larger and more attractive than the one which met with such an untimely end. It consists of seven streets, the houses and shops of which are inhabited by the natives, who have been brought to London for the purpose of illustrating the habits and customs of the Japanese. The houses are accurate models of the various types of Japanese architecture, and are very picturesque buildings, their light bamboo work and quaint Eastern style of decoration affording a pleasant contrast to the heavier and more solid character of European dwelling-houses. One of the prettiest and most noticeable features in the new village is an ornamental garden spanned by a Japanese rustic bridge. Beneath the bridge flows a shallow stream of water, which winds its way through little rockeries and contributes in no small degree to heighten the general effect. There are also temples and tea-houses, as in the former village, in the latter. of which Japanese tea will be served by native attendants. The entertainments will be given in a large building adjoining and communicating with that in which the village is erected. The whole of the buildings have been rendered as nearly fireproof as possible. Taken as a whole, the new Japanese Village seems likely to be even more successful than the one which it replaces.

The Times, December 2nd, 1885

JAPANESE VILLAGE, Hyde-park. Under Royal Patronage - Few minutes' from Sloane-street and Kensington Stations. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. 1s.; children, 6d. Omnibuses from all parts. All amusements free at 12, 3, 5, and 8.

advertisement in The Times, May 11th, 1886

JAPANESE VILLAGE - The Streets of Japan - The number of visitors exceeds one million. Dan Godfrey's Band will shortly appear daily. Open 11 a.m. till 10.30 p.m. Admission 1s. Children 6d.

advertisement in The Times, February 7th, 1887

RIVIERE'S PROMENADE CONCERTS, Japanese Village, Hyde-park, S.W. - VOCAL and INSTRUMENTAL CONCERTS every evening at 8. Grand orchestra of 50 musicians. Conductor M.Riviere. Extensive refreshment and smoking saloons. Wenham lights. Admission 1s.; reserved seats 2s. 6d.

advertisement in The Times, November 30th, 1887