Yamate (山手?) is the name of a historic neighbourhood in Naka-ku, Yokohama often referred to in English as the The Bluff. The neighbourhood is famous as having been a foreigners' residential area in the Bakumatsu, Meiji and Taisho periods.
When the Port of Yokohama first opened to foreign trade under the terms of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1859, the foreigner's settlement was initially confined to a low-lying area known as Kannai. As commercial activity in the Kannai settlement rapidly outgrew the available space, construction on the elevated Yamate Bluff started in 1862. Initially a residential area for the foreign diplomatic community, one of the first structures to be built on the Bluff was the residence of the British Consul-General, Sir Rutherford Alcock.
British Military Garrison
From 1862 until 1875, British diplomatic and commercial interests were protected by a troop garrison stationed at Yamate at the crest of the hill overlooking the harbour, a location that now serves as Harbour View Park. After a series of attacks on the British Legation at Yedo a military guard for British diplomats stationed at Yokohama was first established in 1860. In 1861 this small detachment was supplemented by Royal Marines from H.M.S. Renard. Much larger numbers of troops of the 20th (East Devonshire) Regiment of the Foot arrived in 1864, together with two companies of the 2nd Baloochees from the Bombay Native Infantry. In subsequent years these units were replaced by members of the 9th (East Norfolk),11th, 67th and the 10th (North Lincoln) Regiment of Foot.
Contemporary maps produced in 1864 indicate that officer and troop accommodation, a naval hospital, stores facilities and a large parade ground stretched from the modern park area overlooking the harbour as far as the current location of Christ Church, Yokohama. Some of the earliest horse races in Japan, conducted in a recognisably European style, were held on the garrison parade ground prior to the construction of the purpose built Negishi Racecourse in 1866. Other sports, notably rugby union, were introduced to Japan for the first time on the same parade ground by British service personnel.
During the same period the French diplomatic mission also had a smaller detachment of troops located at site adjacent to its own consular property.
Historic Residential Properties
Over succeeding years, many senior officers of the Kannai trading companies, oyatoi gaikokujin and the diplomatic representatives of other trading nations established homes in the neighbourhood. Although many of the original foreign resident's accommodation and civic buildings were destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, a number of older Meiji and Taisho Period properties have been preserved and relocated to this neighbourhood. Many of these buildings and their ornamental gardens have now been opened to the public and serve as popular tourist attractions.
Sightseeing and local landmarks
The area features some well-preserved residences from the Meiji and Taisho Period, as well as the campuses of Yokohama International School, Saint Maur International School and Ferris University. Additionally:
- Harbour View Park Minato no mieru oka koen (港の見える丘公園?) featuring the former British Consul's residence (1937).
- Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery established in 1859, contains graves and memorials to many prominent members of the Bakumatsu and Meiji Period foreign community.
- Anglican, Christ Church
- Catholic, Sacred Heart Cathedral
- The Ehrismann Residence (1927) designed by Antonin Raymond
- The Italian Garden Park and Diplomat's House (1910) designed by James McDonald Gardiner
- Berrick Hall (1930) designed by JH Morgan as the residence of a British trading merchant
- Yamate 111 House, Bluff 18 House, and the Yamate 234 house.
- Kirin Park adjacent to the location of William Copeland's original Spring Valley Brewery, the first beer production facility of any notable size in Japan.
The neighborhood still maintains a reputation as an exclusive residential district today, along with the Motomachi neighborhood located below it.
Yamate is served by Motomachi-Chūkagai Station, the terminus of the Minatomirai Line subway. Pedestrian access to and from the station and the historic properties on the Yamate ridge road is facilitated by elevators and escalators rising directly from the station on Motomachi Shopping Street to America-yama Park.
- "Archives". www.yokohamachristchurch.org. Yokohama Christ Church. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- D'Almeida, Anna (1863). A Lady's Visit to Manilla and Japan. London: Hurst and Blackett. p. 233.
- Cortazzi, Hugh (1991). Introduction - Richard Henry Brunton: Building Japan(1868-1874). Japan Library. ISBN 1-873410-05-0.
- Galbraith, Mike (15 March 2014). "1866 and all that: the untold early history of rugby in Japan". Japan Times. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
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