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imageAfter I recently went to Japan, I had this idea to look for the traces of Japanese presence in Shanghai. Of course dealing with Japanese is always a bit touchy in China as the war left its wounds. However I do think relationships with Japan deeply influenced modern China and it all happened here in Shanghai during the first half of this century.

The Japanese community in Shanghai 30's is one of the largest with some 30000 people at the turn of the forties. This is three times the figure of the British in the International Settlement. No wonder then that you could find almost everything here that we still have in cities like Kyoto or Tokyo. Kabuki Theatre, Buddhist Shinto temples or fresh fish markets. The Japanese population was essentially concentrated in the North part of the city: Hongkew (nowadays Hongkou) and the American part of the International Settlement near the Suzhou River.


The influence of Japan on shanghai elites

Slide14During the 1870's, Japanese migrants settled along the Sezchuen Road (Sichuan Road) and near the Shaxing Port (read my article about 1933 slaughterhouse). Most of them were humble merchants coming from the South part of Japan in search for a new "Eldorado". Shanghai was indeed a new frontier for them with the large opening to trade with West. In Japan as well, the period is a one of great changes. American ships in the bay of Tokyo did actually put an end to the feodal regime of Shoguns and restored the Emperor's leadership. The later Meiji started a series of reforms which lauched the country towards a modern and industrial stage. At the end of the 19th century, military victories against the Chinese Empire (1895) and Russia (1905) stroke the world's opinion and especially China which was lacking behind the rest of the developped countries.

Painting-of-Lu-Xun-006In Shanghai, the intellectual elite of the time chose to go to Japan to study. The new model was indeed a fair alternative to the declining Qing Dynasty power. This was also the promise of an Asian model of developement versus the colonial style imposed by the Westerners in China. So starting form 1910's and 1920's, leaders such as Sun Yat Sen of Chiang Kai Shek made it to Japan looking for support and new ideas for the founding of the Chinese Republic. Then writers like Luxun (photo nearby) or cartoonists Feng Zikai also studied in Japan. Taisho regime from 1912 on even experimented the democratic model bringing still more inspiration in the Chinese young generations.


What is left today?

duolun 2One of the strongest symbols for this amazing period of intellectual richness is the Shanghai Duolun Road. In the 20's this was the place for writers and artists to meet and take advantage of the Japanese litterature that could be found in Kanzo Uchiyama's bookstore. Near Duolun Road, in a narrow alley, Luxun also created his Left Writers League, gathering the new wave of Chinese intellectuals. In another part of Shanghai, on Shaoxing Road still can be found the statue of Umeya Shokichi, support of the Chinese Republic.

Near the Suzhou River close to Garden Bridge, the Former Japanese Consulate building still stands whereas the Japanese Post Office (first photo) can be found further East of former Broadway Road.

lycee 2The Japanese Consulate is now used by the Chinese Army and the Japanese Post Office has been turned into an habitation. On the left photo, the former Japanese School for boys on Wujin Road (Range Road). As for the Japanese Club on Boone Road (Tanggu Road) or the neighboring Hongkou Market which was landmark in "Little Tokyo", they have disappeared, replaced by more modern buildings. On Zhapu Road though, the buddist Nishi-Hongan temple built in 1928 (second photo) can still be spoted. Nowadays it is merely a night-club but buddhist lotuses and Japanese chrysantemas still remain on the street wall.

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