A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Crescent and the Sun: Japanese in 19th Century Ottoman Istanbul

Yamada Torajiro in Ottoman Garb
I could start the week by writing about the crisis over President Morsi's attempt to restore the dissolved Parliament in Egypt. I'll be writing about that today, but not just yet.

I could start the week with the crisis in Syria, or the elections in Libya. But I won't.

I'm going to start the week with something completely different: 19th Century Japanese in the late Ottoman Empire. From the Istanbul Research Institute's Blog, "A Fin de Siècle Japanese Romantic in İstanbul." 

The narrative is from the catalogue of an exhibit called The Crescent And The Sun: Three Japanese İn İstanbul: Yamada Torajirō, Itō Chūta, Ōtani Kōzui.

After the Ottoman frigate Ertuğrul struck rocks on the Japanese coast after a typhoon in 1890, following a visit to Japan, Japan rallied to provide relief to the families of the hundreds of sailors who died. Yamada Torajiro took the donations to Istanbul, and soon was allowed to open a store displaying Japanese exports and promoting trade. He wrote extensively, introducing Turkey to Japan as well as promoting Japan in the late Ottoman Empire. There's more at the link; he apparently lived into the 1950s and his memoir (in Japanese of course) appeared in 1957.

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