During the early years of extraterritoriality various foreign clubs and fraternal institutions emerged in Yokohama, and later in Kobe. These institutions variously contributed to the definition, creation and promotion of what may be termed as a civil society, or more specifically what Habermas has referred to as the ‘public sphere’. Despite the absence of any single colonial power controlling the administration of the settlements, the fraternal institutions run by a network of transoceanic Euro-American bourgeois came together to fill the gap normally occupied by a military or overseas civil service. Long term residents of these ports operated under what can be construed as local sovereignty, foreign extraterritoriality, and facilitated a tradition of laissez-faire capitalism in the region that had significant consequences on Japan’s cultural and economic development as a whole.
During the extraterritorial era, club life became the main cultural activity through which the expatriate community expressed itself, and in turn, dictated the de facto homosocial rules of conduct between the predominantly white male population of the treaty port in the years of extraterritoriality and beyond. Gentleman’s clubs and sporting rituals were woven into the fabric of the community on multiple social and economic levels, which helped to recreate familiar European class hierarchies and racial boundaries. Closely aligned with the vernacular press, these institutions pertained to promote international cooperation, egalitarianism and community altruism by simultaneously bolstering an increasingly isolated bourgeois foreign population which actively sought to separate itself from the wider Japanese community. Additionally, it was via the club, that the leaders of the community expressed their identity and status in what would become the ‘treaty port public sphere’ in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Drawing on archival sources, the English-language press, the Harold S. Williams Collection from the Australian National Library in Canberra, and a number of contemporary accounts from foreign residents, this research will attempt to highlight the key factors in the socio-cultural development of the settlement, such as the emergence of a European club culture and what role it had in the shaping future relationships between the settler population and their Japanese hosts.