The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Japanese ambassador

Japanese ambassador

On 10 April 1862, the Times repeated the following story, which had recently been published in a Lyons newspaper: ‘The great event of the day is the arrival here of the Ambassadors of Japan. The embassy is composed of five ambassadors, 12 officers, and some servants. The chief is a man of about 50 years of age. The Japanese have an intelligent physiognomy, although their countenances are not very prepossessing; the nose is large and flat, the lips not very thick, the eyes oblique, the complexion sallow, and the head large. Their hair, of jet black, is raised up on the head, which gives the younger portion of them a rather feminine appearance when seen from behind. Several of them have the head completely shave, but none have the slightest appearance of a beard on the face. They are generally dressed simply in garments of dark colours, and with little ornament. They wear a silk tunic, trousers of white muslin, and sandals of yellow leather. They all wear in their waistbelt a dagger more or less richly chased, according to their rank or dignity. They have on their heads a kind of Chinese hat in straw, those of the Ambassador being gilded on the inside. The Japanese are very sober. They usually drink liqueurs and rice water; and as regards food they prefer boiled poultry. They sit at table, use knives and forks, and season everything they eat with pepper and spice. They are remarkably clean in their manner of eating, as well as in their daily habits. They do not appear to be at all annoyed by the curiosity which they excite. They appeared astonished at the princely luxury of the hotel at which they have alighted, and where they occupied the splendid apartments on the first floor. In the evening every part was lighted up in the most brilliant manner, and an immense crowd collected in front of the house.’

Six days later, the newspaper carried a detailed report of the presentation of the ambassadors to the Emperor at the Tuileries.

Photographed by Nadar of Paris.

Code: 122061
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© Paul Frecker 2018