During the Franco-British Exhibition Imre Kiralfy approached the Japanese Ambassador, Count Komura, on the subject of an exhibition of Japanese arts, products and resources, to be held in Great Britain . Before long an agreement was drawn up, signed, and two years later an exhibition combining both these Island Empires opened at the White City . This was the first great exhibition of Japanese products held outside the limits of the Japanese Empire and it was held under the auspices of the Japanese Government.

        From the main entrance at Uxbridge Road the visitor passed into the magnificent Glass Palaces which linked up with the Wood Lane Entrance. The first of these Palaces (2), each one 70 feet wide and 400 feet long, was the Japanese Industrial and it was possible to buy many souvenirs at the various booths. From here stairs led into the Japanese Horticultural Hall (2a) where the main feature of interest was the growing of miniature trees. Turning a corner led the visitor into the Japanese Scenic Hall (3) and probably the most impressive feature here was a full sized sectional painting of a Japanese railway engine. In the next two Palaces were masterpieces to rival even Kiralfy’s Venice in London. They were the scenes to represent the four Japanese seasons Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The next Palace (7) was divided between 300 stereoscopic views of Japan and a repeat of one of last years successes, the British Health and Pleasure Resorts. Certain resorts that had taken part in the display the previous year reported a big increase in trade even though it had been a wet summer. The next few palaces contained more or less the same tableaux as in previous years i.e.
    British Science and Education Halls (7)
    Progress of the Royal Navy            (8)
    War Office                                      (9)

        The visitor now passed over a bridge, which crossed Wood Lane and then descended the stairs into the Wood Lane entrance. People entering the exhibition at Wood Lane could walk back through the Palaces so that they would not miss anything. Passing through this entrance into the main exhibition one would have found the Post Office and even a bank! This Hall (12) contained many displays concerned with the History of Japan through the ages. Moving into the British Palace (14) one of the most interesting displays was the photographic record of Lt. Sir E. Shackleton's expedition to the Antarctic. This Hall also contained many other British exhibits. The central doors open into the Court of Honour and across the water could be seen the Japanese Textile Palace where over 800 firms had exhibits.

        In this Pavilion were many new and exciting exhibits for the visitor to see. In one of the annexes was a rope, 300 feet in length and three inches in diameter. It had been made of human hair contributed by thousands of Japanese. The Fine Art School of Tokyo had specially constructed for the exhibition a model of the Temple of the Zojoji which stood in Shiba Park in Tokyo. Finally the visitor could leave through central doors that faced those by which he had entered and would find himself in the Garden of Peace . This garden was an exquisite example of the Japanese gardener's art - a veritable poem and picture combined.

        No stone was selected without not only careful consideration as to the place it was to occupy, but the special symbolism which attaches to the particular geological specimen laid down. No tree was planted without deep thought as to when its frondage would be at perfection, and how that perfection would affect the foliage in its immediate vicinity.

         Passing from the garden through a loggia festooned with flowers the visitor turned sharply to the right, over the bridge of the lagoon into the British Applied Arts Palace (19). This building contained the work of the leading goldsmiths, silversmiths and jewellers. A magnificent display by the British Horological Institute gave a historical appreciation of watches, clocks, chronometers, and scientific instruments appertaining to horology. At the eastern end of the palace was a section dealing with the latest in calculating machines. On leaving the palace at this end the visitor would cross a bridge, then past the bandstand before entering the Palace of Natural Resources (21). This Palace was divided between Great Britain and Japan . The British section comprised of a Chemical display concerned mainly with the production of perfumes and toilet soaps and a section devoted to food and drinks.

         In the Japanese section a prominent position was given to the production of tea and silk and every process of their cultivation was fully demonstrated. Before passing out and into the grounds the visitor would pass stalls devoted to oyster culture, as well as live specimens of gold fish.

         The Palace of the Orient (23) was taken over entirely by the Japanese Government to show what they had accomplished in their Colonies and in Formosa, Korea and Manchuria . (It is interesting to note that the literature of the day refers to the way in which Japan had lifted these colonies out of 'their long sleep' and 'wiped out most of the corrupt courts'). Across the Court of Arts was the palace taken by the Japanese Government Departments (24). On entering this building the visitor first passed the display by the Red Cross Society of Japan and the Japanese Women's League before coming to the purely military exhibits which ran the whole length of the building. This series of Battle tableaux represented in a long diorama the most important national and international wars in the history of Japan.

         Close by the visitor would have passed into the Fine Arts Palace (26) which always closed at dusk. This Palace contained British Statuary and a magnificent collection of paintings by Millais, Reynolds, Gainsborough etc. A special King Edward's Loan Collection contained many famous paintings and relics and it was possible to inspect the actual bullet that caused the death of Nelson at Trafalgar. As it said in the guide book of the day, this section "will arouse loving memories of the Great Departed". Japanese art was represented by a superb collection of paintings, princip­ally in the form of screens and rolls. So generous had the Japanese collectors been in their support of the exhib­ition that it was necessary to change the display every fortnight throughout the period.

         Moving from the Court of Arts into the area of the Elite Gardens the visitor could relax in the Formosa Tea House (36) before embarking on the task of walking round the largest of the palaces - The Great Industrial and Machinery Halls (47, 8, 9). The whole of the left wing was taken up by the Japanese, whilst the remainder of the building had been secured for British firms.

         First, in the Japanese section, there was an educational section followed by a most interesting display of Japanese women's work. One of the most interesting exhibits in this building must have been the representat­ion of the City of Osaka , or as it was known in some circles, the " Manchester of the Orient". The model was evidently the work of a patient artist, for in a space of twelve by thirteen feet were reproductions of some 300,000 houses.

         As the visitor entered Building No. 48 there were models of battleships and cruisers, constructed by Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. for the Japanese Govern­ment: A test plate of armour, which was supplied to one of the battleships that played a prominent part in the late Russo-Japanese War was also shown. The resist­ing quality of this plate was well demonstrated by the marks of impact made by the nine inch shells. The shipbuilding section was very extensive and was followed by a display of cycles and their accessories. One of the more interesting exhibits was the Sturmey-Archer three­speed gear - famous for its hill climbing capabilities!

         The main line railways of England had made specially attractive and valuable contributions and they included a model of the new Admiralty Harbour at Dover and a boring machine to be used in the Channel Tunnel!

         The heavy textile machinery dominated the rest of the Hall and all of the various processes connected with spinning, weaving etc. were on display.

         In the northern portion of the grounds lying beyond the Daily Mail Pavilion was the 'Garden of the Floating Islands' the second of the two perfectly exquisite examples of the art of the Japanese gardener at the Great White City.

         This garden, although equally picturesque, differed in character from the first in that it appealed to the lighter mood and seemed to invite gaiety and pleasure. Once again the greatest care was taken over every seemingly small detail. The outline of the lakes was determined by accepted types, not by mere whim. Each island in the lake had a definite purpose to fulfill. These were "Masters Isle" and the "Guest's Isle" for the inland lake, the "Windswept Isle" for the sea. Adjoining the "Garden of the Floating Islands" was a Japanese tea­house where Japanese girls served tea to delighted visitors.

         Among the many additional Japanese attractions of the Exhibition the Sumo wrestlers held a prominent position. They gave two demonstrations each day and it was the first time that they had been allowed to leave their own country.

         At the Tokyo Theatre the Namba troupe delighted the visitors with their acrobatic turns, juggling and dancing. At the Sh iba theatre there were performances of a similar nature.

         At the north end of the Stadium was Fair Japan, where amid proper scenic settings, the Japanese could be viewed at work and play. Ivory carvers and workers in bamboo could all be seen working in booths and quaint open workshops as well as seeing their sacred shrines and places of entertainment.

         In the Uji village the people could also be seen in a village setting as opposed to the city dwellers. With its thatched houses and traditional cherry trees, the rural workers of Japan could be seen busy in their fields and at their cottage industries. In the Formosan hamlet the most interesting and certainly the most gruesome sight were the men with human hair on the scabbard of their swords. This was an indication that until recently their favourite occupation had been head-hunting. The Ainu people the original inhabitants of Japan were represented by a small group of their number with one or two huts.

         The Ju-Jitsu Hall (101) proved to be a popular attraction to the visitor.


© Exhibition Study Group 2004