Human Bridge: 150 Years of Anglo-Japanese Friendship and Commerce – A Photographic Exhibition

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8th Dec 2009 – 29th Jan 2010
The Embassy of Japan
101-104 Piccadilly, London W1J 7JT
Open weekdays 09:30 – 17:30, closed weekends
Admission is free, but photo ID is necessary to gain entry to the Embassy.

The photographic exhibition, ‘Human Bridge: 150 years of Anglo-Japanese Friendship and Commerce’, condenses the rich involvement between Japan and Britain since 1858 into 50 historical photographs. The exhibition, organised under the auspices of the Japanese Residents Association, is curated by Keiko Itoh and Momoko Williams.

For Japan, the signing of the Treaty of Commerce and Friendship with the UK and other major powers signified the end of over two hundred years of isolation from the outside world. The immediate result was the opening of the treaty ports, where British firms engaged in business with Japan. Later, the Meiji Government dispatched the famous Iwakura Mission in 1871-73 to see and learn about all aspects of modern Western civilisation. In those early years, a number of Japanese students were sent to the UK to study engineering, industry and trade. In its effort to “catch-up” with the Western Powers, the Meiji Government also hired the o-yatoi foreign experts, many of whom were British, to serve in Japan. The photographs from these early years reveal Britain’s enormous contribution to Japan’s modernisation.

As we move on to more recent times, photos of trade fairs and exhibitions, cultural exchanges, the opening of factories and other events which took place in both countries show how commerce has made our two countries truly interdependent both economically and culturally. The highlights among the photographs are those that illustrate the close human ties between Britain and Japan, as encapsulated in the title of the exhibition, ‘Human Bridge’ – also the title of the central photograph, which depicts Japanese engineer, Watanabe Kaichi, centred between two British engineers, demonstrating the principle of a cantilever bridge, the principle which was used for the Forth Bridge near Glasgow

By Keiko Itoh, taken from the website of the Embassy of Japan in the UK.

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