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2013 is the Four-Hundredth Anniversary of official relations between Britain and Japan, which commenced in 1613.

Japanese influence in the Museum

There are several items around the museum with notable Japanese influence; a number of Japanese locomotives and cars such as Mercedes-Benz have been reproduced as models by British toy companies, and we have a large collection of Japanese traditional dolls.

Japan and England

Britain’s historic trade relations with Japan first developed in 1613, under the reigns of James I Stuart (James VI of Scotland) and the reciprocated affability of the Tokugawa Shogunate. At this time, the British Empire had not reached its most powerful and was only just beginning to be established through minor exploration into East Asia, India and the Americas. Trade with Japan was therefore minimal in the years that followed, with only four cargo ships travelling between Japan and England over the course of a decade. Yet diplomatic relations were maintained and most distinguished by Japan’s diplomatic gift of traditional Japanese armour to James I.

It was only in 1854 that trade relations began to expand greatly; the British Empire had reached its historic heights of naval domination and trade monopoly and, despite the loss of colonies in North America, trade with Japan was made more efficient through upheld diplomatic ties via the United States of America. The first Anglo-Japanese Friendship Treaty was signed in 1854 by Admiral Sir James Stirling and members of the Tokugawa Shogunate in Bakufu. By 1859 Japanese envoys were posted to Britain, swiftly followed by Queen Victoria’s own gift of armour in 1860. Trade between Japan and England flourished in the years that followed, although greatly disrupted by both the First and Second World Wars. The rapid growth of Britain’s Japanese community has served to further concretise relations.

Japan and Brighton

Brighton’s own Japanese community has been greatly expanded; situated close to London and advantaged by its geographic position on the coast, Brighton has been a highly desirable place to visit, to study and to live. Brighton’s Japanese community has greatly benefitted from the establishment of two local Universities (Brighton & Sussex), by both English and Japanese language courses, by Japanese societies and clubs, restaurants, and by hosting regular cultural festivities. The Anglo-Japan Services, established in the 1980s, was founded with the intention of accommodating Brighton’s increasing numbers of non-English-speaking Japanese. The significance of Brighton, specifically, in British-Japanese diplomatic, trading and cultural relations is highly significant. While relations between England and Japan are annually commemorated in Britain with the Japanese Festival, the celebration of 400 years of British-Japanese relations (1613 – 2013) is commemorated by the Brighton-Japan Festival ‘Japan 400’.

Further reading

  • Derek Massarella, “Ticklish Points” The East India Company and Japan, 1621, Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series, Vol. 11, No.1,(2001)
  • Derek Massarella, James I and Japan, Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 38, No. 4, (1983)


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Media in category ‘Japan’

The following 14 files are in this category, out of 14 total.