The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery Museum is a small stone building, the Cemetery Office, just within the main gate of the in Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery in The Bluff/Yamate district of Yokohama.
The museum details some of the most famous people buried in the cemetery and also provides a map of how to visit their graves. In addition there are interesting panel displays of photos of Yokohama and details of some of the fascinating people and events associated with Yokohama during its early history as a Treaty Port when foreigners first began to live and visit the port.
Some of the interesting people who passed through Yokohama at that time were Richard Risley (1814–1874), an American circus performer known for his incredible feats of foot juggling. Risley came to Japan in 1864 with "ten performers and eight horses" and staged the first western circus events in Yokohama including shows with Japanese acrobats. However, as he was forbidden to perform outside Yokohama by the Japanese authorities he ran into financial difficulties and thus set up Japan's first dairy selling milk from diary cows imported from San Francisco and ice cream manufactured in an ice-house with ice from China.
Risley is famous for taking a troupe of Japanese acrobats to the Paris Expo of 1867 for which the first ever Japanese passports, numbers 1-18 were issued for the performers. A further set of passports 19-27 were then issued for another troupe of performers led by a Japanese-top (koma) spinner.
After seeing them in New York, Mark Twain wrote: "Japanese Jugglers have taken New York by storm. . . . It has to be a colossal sensation that is able to set everybody talking in New York, but the Japs did it. And I got precious tired of it for the first few days."
Other Western entertainments introduced to Japan through the foreign enclave of Yokohama included horse racing. The first horse race was held in Yokohama in 1862, now a massively popular sport in modern-day Japan.
The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery
Tel: 045 622 1311
The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery Museum is open daily and is free to enter.
Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery is a short walk from Motomachi-chukagai Station (Exit 6) on the Minato-mirai Line and is close to a number of other historic buildings on The Bluff including the Bluff No. 234 Building, the Ellisman Residence, Berrick Hall and Christ Church. From Sakuragicho Station take bus #11 and get off at the Motomachi-koen-mae stop.
The Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery itself is only open to the public on weekends and national holidays.
Read more about Richard Risley Carlisle
Professor Risley and the Imperial Japanese Troupe: How an American Acrobat Introduced Circus to Japan-and Japan to the West by Frederik L. Schodt
Inside Track Japan For Kindle