Yokohama Prints or Yokohama-e as they are called in Japanese, expressed the opening of Japan after the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854 and the beginning of the Meiji era in 1868.

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Yokohama Prints

Yokohama Prints Following its opening to trade with America and Europe in 1859 (after more than two centuries of Japanese isolation), foreigners from the five treaty nations the US, Great Britain, France, Russia, and the Netherlands filled Yokahama, transforming the rural fishing village into a bustling international port.

These extraordinary, colorful woodblock prints capture the excitement of the harbor, the foreign peoples, and the technological wonders (from sewing machines to locomotives) that were introduced into Japan. Yonemura explores the prints in the context of the historical events that propelled Japan into the modern age

The Treaty of Kanagawa

In 1853 and a second time in 1854 a US naval fleet under the Commander Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794-1858) forced Japan to enter negotiations with the US for an opening of its borders. On Perry’s second trip to Japan, the American delegation and the Japanese shogunate government signed the Treaty of Kanagawa.

The European countries followed soon and by 1858 England, France, Russia and the Netherlands had concluded a treaty with Japan to promote commercial ties. Those four European nations and the US were referred to as the five Treaty Nations.

Before the Treaty of Kanagawa the Japanese population had never seen foreigners before. A new art genre of ukiyo-e were designed to satisfy the curiosity towards the different way of life of these strange-looking newcomers and their technological achievements. Iron black ships, horse-drawn carriages, locomotives, steam-vessels or hot air balloons had been unknown in Japan.

The Enclave of Yokohama

During the first years, the foreigners were not allowed to travel more than twenty-five miles outside Yokohama. The restriction was more of a precautionary measure to protect the foreigners against hostile attacks by the samurai class.

The Subjects

Yokohama prints can be grouped after the subjects they display. There are maps, ships, ceremonies and important events and portraits of foreigners. Portraits usually show a couple or the whole family with children, pets and servants are frequent among Yokohama prints. It can be assumed that many of these portraits were commissioned by foreign diplomats.

The Artists

Ann Yonemura, the author of the book “Yokohama” estimates the total number of different Yokohama prints at some five hundred, designed by thirty-one artists between 1859 and 1862.

Chikanobu Toyohara, 1838-1912

Hiroshige II Utagawa, 1829-1869

Hiroshige III Utagawa, 1842-1894

Kuniaki II Utagawa, 1835-1888

Kunihisa Utagawa, 1832-1891

Kuniteru II Utagawa, 1830-1874

Kunitoshi Utagawa, 1847-1899

Sadahide Utagawa, 1807-1873

Unsen, active ca. 1875

Yoshifuji Utagawa, 1828-1887

Yoshiiku Utagawa, 1833-1904

Yoshikazu Utagawa, active ca.1850-70

Yoshimori Taguchi, 1830-1884

Yoshitora Utagawa, active ca. 1840-1880

Yoshitoshi Taiso, 1839-1892

Yoshitoyo Utagawa, 1830-1866