Kobe Club - The Year 1869 and All That - The 140th Anniversary Supplement - Spotlight Online
The 140th Anniversary Supplement : The Year 1869 and All That
Posted by Kobe Club staff on 2009/9/24 7:30:00 (2811 reads)


When our forefathers arrived in Hyogo port in 1868, the country was still in turmoil and the full power of the Tokugawa Shogunate had not been broken yet. Of immediate attention were two attacks on foreigners.



On 4th February 1868 a party of soldiers of the Daimyo (feudal lord) of Okayama had to pass through Kobe in order to join the Imperial Forces. While the Japanese knelt down when the party shouted the then customary “Shita-ni-iro” (Down on your knees), two French marines crossed the line of the Bizen samurai, who became infuriated and tried to cut down the offenders who managed to escape. Then an officer issued the order to open fire on every foreigner in sight, including the foreign settlement, but the marksmanship was still lacking and nobody was wounded. Still this officer was later condemned to death by Seppuku (Hara-Kiri) in the presence of Japanese and foreign dignitaries.

And only a few weeks’ later, 11 French sailors were killed in Sakai, this time by samurais from the Tosa (Kochi Pref.) clan. The massacre caused the new government to apologize; pay indemnity and the French wanted an equal number of Tosa men to commit ritual suicide as well. This gory feat was accomplished in a temple in Sakai.

So, these were the times when in 1869 (Meiji 2) Edo replaced Kyoto as the Imperial Capital and was renamed Tokyo, the young Emperor Mutsuhito coming out of his traditional seclusion of the Imperial Palace in Kyoto traveled to the “Eastern Capital”. He travelled with less retinue and pomp than those required of the yearly Sankin-Kotai  (annual duty for Feudal Lords to travel to Edo and serve the Shogun). An enormous change had overcome Japan that had profound influence on her and the rest of the world. The samurai system was abolished ending a warrior class and replaced by a military system based on the French model. The following years brought about even more changes.

This was the year when the International Club (later to be known as the Kobe Club) opened its doors with premises in Dutronquoy’s building, first in Native Town and shortly after in the Foreign Settlement in Kobe. Later the International Club moved to 79, Kyo-machi.

The first German Club in Kobe was known as the Union Club and was founded in 1868. Its own premise, a single-storied wide spreading building, was constructed in 1869. This site occupied by the German or Union Club was later purchased by the International Club. In turn the Union Club took over the International Club’s premises.

What happened in Japan and elsewhere in the world during that year 1869?

The Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads joined up on 10th May to link the U.S. railway system from the East to West.

Of great importance was the opening of the Suez Canal on 17th November, 1869 after construction was started in 1859. Many foreign dignitaries were present during the week long festivities. The length of the completed canal is 163 km.

Japan’s first telegraph line opened between Tokyo and Yokohama, and at Kyoto the first public elementary school of Japan started.

Coinciding with the establishment of the International Club (Kobe Club) on May 1st, the famous Folies-Bergere became Paris’ first and foremost music hall. Its mixed program of music and dance made it the premier nightspot in Paris later on.

Kirin Brewery was founded in Yokohama under the name Spring Valley Brewery by William Copeland, an American entrepreneur.

In a complete reversal for 1869, the first Japanese arrived near Sacramento, CA, where they established Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony on 600 acres. Later on, this venture was abandoned because the weather did not support these farms.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born on the 2nd of October. He was the political and spiritual leader of India and lead the Indian Independence Movement with his philosophy of “non-violence”. He was murdered in 1948 by a political adversary. 

Goldman Sachs Investment Bank had its beginnings in an office opened in New York by German-born Marcus Goldman, who came to America in 1848.

An African shepherd boy discovered a large rough diamond weighing about 84 carats, which was then cut to 48 carats and was known as the Star of South Africa. The news of the find set off a rush to South African diamond fields.  

The construction of Neuschwanstein Castle started in Bavaria at a time when castles and fortresses were no longer strategically needed. Instead, it was born of pure fantasy – a romantic composition of towers and walls in the perfect setting of mountains and lakes. The building was completed in 1884.

W. Goble, an American missionary to Japan, invented the rickshaw around 1869 to transport his invalid wife through the streets of Yokohama. The original version called "jin-riki-sha, or man-power carriage" was already in use in the 1870’s in Hong Kong.

Vienna’s Staatsoper (State Opera House) opens off Kaernter Ring with 2,260 seats.

Publication of the scientific journal “Nature” began in the USA.

Bicycles were developed, of which power was transmitted from the pedals to the back wheel by a chain.

And last, but not least, HSBC opened its first branch in Japan in Kobe.

-Rainer Weiland




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