Arts and Culture
In contrast to the traditional literature, generally focused on the “Cult of Japan” spread among British artists and intellectuals in the second half of the 19th century, this paper intends to offer an alternative perspective regarding the late Victorian Japonisme in a peripheral region such as the North East of England.
After the first contact occurred in 1862, when a delegation of the Japanese government paid a visit to Newcastle upon Tyne in order to study the local heavy industries, the relationship between Japan and the North East became quite relevant and reached the highest point at the end of the 19th century. In the last quarter of the century different Japanese companies started to order steamships from the local shipyards, and in 1898, Middlesbrough was chosen by the Japanese government as the place for an honorary consulate.
Following an extensive study on local newspapers, this paper aims to unearth that, in parallel of the aforementioned commercial and political relationships, the image of Japan was highly popular even in the everyday lives of members of the north-eastern middle-class, mainly thanks to local shops. Starting from the early 1860s, Japanese goods such as silks, folding screens and fans started to be massively sold in basically every town in the North East. Moreover, the success of the Japanese articles led to the creation of specialised shops such as the Mikado Bazaar in Sunderland or the Japanese Shop in Darlington where anyone might purchase a more or less fine object imported from Japan.