The Treaty Ports established by the Unequal Treaties in the middle of the 19th century were crucial spaces of interaction between Japan and the West. For a long time, they were the only places were foreigners were allowed to permanently reside in Japan. While the interior of the nation might be visited by Western travelers and globetrotters, the primary contacts, commercial as well as social and cultural, took place in the environment of the Treaty Ports, where the vast majority of foreigners resided and visited. Because of this exclusive role, the ports played a critical venue for the creation and formation of images of Japan, as well as their transmission abroad.
This article focuses at the image of Japan generated in these Treaty Ports in the immediate aftermath of the Meiji Restoration. It will look at how the restoration and subsequent Japanese policies of modernization were perceived by the foreign communities in East Asia and how it was presented in the foreign language press in the Treaty Ports. This will be undertaken by the study of two of the most important foreign language newspapers of East Asia at the time, the North China Herald, published in Shanghai from 1850 to 1951, and the Japan Weekly Mail, published in Yokohama from 1870 to 1917. Both were amongst the largest and most influential newspapers in their respective communities, but also further abroad, and their pages reflect the understanding these communities had of Japan at the time. Furthermore, their comparison enables us to look at the creation of images, within the wider Treaty Port network of East Asia, and analyze how it differed or remained similar across the China Sea.
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