Japan British Exhibition London 1910


Don Knight


            The Japan British Exhibition was held on what had been the site of the Franco British Exhibition in 1908 at Shepherds Bush. This area was then known as The Great White City named by the millions of visitors who had visited the exhibitions in 1908 and 1909. It opened on Saturday 14 May 1910 and closed on Saturday 29 October 1910.

            With the influence of seeing Japanese people and the changes made on the exhibition site, more than eight million visitors went to the Japan British Exhibition, Imre Kiralfy was still the director general of the exhibition, and worked with the Japanese committee and designers to help make the exhibition a success.

            Three Native Villages were built, Uji Village the Aino Village and the Formosa Village. The Canadian Pavilion became a Wrestling Hall, a Japanese Garden was built the behind the Court of Honour. This is still there to be visited today in 2010.

            The Formosa Village was a interesting place to visit, the natives had been one of the fiercest and intractable races on the globe. This was the description of a well known traveller of the natives of Formosa prior to the occupation of the island in 1895. These turbulent and warlike people had still retained their old warlike spirit. Their favourite occupation had been head hunting, a man’s position in the tribe was determined by the number of strands of hair pendants hung from the scabbard on their sword. Six strands of hair represented one human head, some weapons owned by Formosan Natives at the Great White City had from sixty to over a hundred such gruesome souvenirs.

            The warlike dwellers from the mountain areas of Formosa resided in their own peculiar native huts built in the Formosa Village. The visitors could stand and watch them in their occupations and sports. The war dances and mimic battles showed them adept in the use of the spear and the bow and arrow. The visit to their quarters proved to educate the visitor of the manners and customs of these decidedly peculiar people.

            In 2010 research has come up with information that a baby boy was born on the 31st August 1910 at the Japan British Exhibition Wood Lane, Father Keriji Kavgawa, Mother Warashion, Boy name Hidehiro.

            Formosa Tea House. This was most wonderfully decorated, it had banqueting rooms decorated with wisteria and Japanese lanterns. It was here that the visitors could sip the Formosa Oolong tea in a truly Oriental surroundings, served by smart native waiters from the Far East.


Ainu and Formosan Natives who came over to appear at the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition.


            Don Knight sent me a copy of the 1910 Birth Certificate of a child born at the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition on the 31 August, to one of the Ainu women. I showed this to Kirsten Ziomek, who took one look at it and said “how strange, they named their child English Exhibition”. (in Japanese) Kirsten was able to tell me more, that in fact two children were born in the Japanese village. She gave me a copy of an extract from the Osaka Mainichi (Daily) Newspaper December 15, 1910 in an article looking back at the Japan-British Exhibition. The article reads “At that time two little boys were born, the Ainu boy was named Hidehiro (English Exhibition) and the Barbarian (Formosan) boy was named Hieihiro (Japan Exhibition).” The translation was done by Kirsten.


Copy of a certified copy of the Entry of Birth (birth certificate) owned by Don Knight


            Once Kirsten realised that copies of birth and death certificates could be obtained, she ferreted around and got copies of the Formosan baby and also the death certificate of a Formosan man who died during the exhibition. She visited the cemetery where he was buried but was unable to track down the unmarked grave.

            It is known from a report appearing in The Times on 16 April 1910 that the Ainu and Formosan people came from Japan in the liner Kagamaru which arrived in the Albert Docks on the previous day. The history of the Ainu is very similar to the North American Indians. As Japan became modernised they were gradually driven off the mainland to the island of Yezo. Although the Japanese Government took steps to protect and preserve them, by 1910 there had been no increase in their numbers since 1882. Five men, four women and two children aged 2 and 10 years old represented the race on board the Kagamaru.

            The women are tattooed about the mouth and arms. It  was reported they formed a picturesque group on board, taking no interest in their new surroundings until an attempt was made to photograph one of them, who displayed some alarm at the attention this caused.

            In the Formosan contingent there were 21 men and four women and when they were trans-shipped at Moji, they were suffering from sea and homesickness and had to be persuaded to continue the journey. Two of the new arrivals were contracted to provide the attraction of a wedding at the village before the end of the season.

            The names of two of the Formosan women appearing in the Formosan Hamlet at the Japan-British exhibition are known, Baruharu-Chaco, and Rugayo. Kirsten informed me one of the men Ruji Suruchan an agricultural labourer died from shock from a perforated gastric ulcer on the 25 October at the exhibition, when he was only eighteen years old. He was buried in Hammersmith Cemetery in an un-marked grave. The names of most of the Formosan men are also known from post cards bearing printed titles, although this is not completely reliable as at least one card has the wrong name, and one portrait is given two different names on different postcards.


Names of 23 of the Formosan Natives.


            1          Api Patogaton.

            2          Bachago Bagaban.

            3          Bachio Bajaijan.

            4          Baruharu-Chaco. (Female)

            5          Buchaburi Salangai (This is the same picture as Rechabury.)

            6          Chaibai Pujajon.

            7          Chavaja Cojun.

            8          Chigul Ruragan.

            9          Dajibaka Sapai. (This is the same picture as Jabibaka Sapai.)

            10        Jabibaka Sapai. (This is the same picture as Dajibaka Sapai.)

            11        Jubo Bikap.

            12        Osugazan Pajajun.

            13        Pakajamoto Ruji.

            14        Pasuriba Kojugi.

            15        Pitaraji Chokarn.

            16        Rechabury. (This is the same picture as Buchaburi Salangai.)

            17        Rugayo. (Female)

            18        Ruji Suruchan.

            19        Rusubaba Arapai.

            20        Rusuyajan Bajajim.

            21        Tibo Salongai (Chief.)

            22        Togachi Rumuchi.

            23        Tugie Kalowan, (Chief.)


© Exhibition Study Group 2009