Commercial Reports by
Her Majesty's Consuls in Japan


Cover, 1874


British Consuls in Japan:
Commercial Reports by Her Majesty's Consuls in Japan, London, printed by Harrison and Sons, 1875-1885 (covering the years 1874-1884), 8vo (6 x 9 1/2 in - 15.5 x 24.3 cm), blue paper wraps. Annual reports regarding commerce and trade in Japan filed by various British Consuls and submitted to Parliament in a consolidated report form. Sometimes referred to as the "Blue Books" because of the color of the wraps.

The British Consuls reporting included those at Hakodate, Hiogo and Osaka, Kanagawa (Yokohama), Nagasaki and, for a time, Niigata. In addition, the British Consul General to Japan (Sir Harry Parkes - H.B.M. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Japan) would provide an annual summary of trade for the year. Sir Harry Parkes was transferred from Japan c1882 and the last report issued under his name covered the year 1882.

The reports provide a wealth of information, in narrative and table format, on many aspects of Japanese trade with the United Kingdom. Among the many matters the reports detail are shipping and tonnage, imports and exports by commodity, duties collected, exchange rates and currency, railways and other internal transportation systems, foreign residents and firms, public works, demographics and population. Often reports would deal with current events relevant to commerce. Starting with the year 1876, the trade relations between Japan and Korea began receiving significant attention in the reports. Apparently the British viewed Korea as a potential competitor in the Japanese market and they entertained a rather faint hope of entering into trade relations with Korea.

For the 11 year period from 1874-1884, 17 compiled trade reports were published. The reports are designated Japan No. 1 (1875) 84 pp, Japan No. 2 (1876) 106 pp, Japan No. 1 (1877) 87 pp, Japan No. 1(1878) 42 pp, Japan No. 2 (1878) 123 pp, Japan No. 1 (1879) 131 pp, Japan No. 1 (1880) 29 pp, Japan No. 2 (1880) 58 pp, Japan No. 1 (1881) 23 pp, Japan No. 2 (1881) 81 pp, Japan No. 1 (1882) 99 pp, Japan No. 1, Part I (1882) 28 pp, Japan No. 4 (1883) 51 pp, Japan No. 1, Part I (1884) 96 pp, Japan No. 3, Part II (1884) 62 pp, Japan No. 4, Part III (1884) 39 pp & Japan No 2 (1885) 116 pp. Generally the date in the title of the published compiled report was the year after the period covered in the report. These 17 compiled reports contain over 1100+ numbered pages of textual discussion and tables. More information on these 17 compiled reports is provided below.

The earliest British Consul Trade Report I have seen reported was for the year 1863-4. It was printed and presented to Parliament in 1865. It is quite possible earlier reports exist. This was a continuing report and probably still exists today although the title may have changed and it may be incorporated into other reports.

While almost no British foreign trade was reported in the Niigata, the area was the subject of considerable attention in the reports for the years 1875-1879. In one report, the Niigata section covered 1/3 of the total compiled report for that year. After 1879 there were no further consul reports regarding Niigata. Perhaps the commentary found in an 1876 report explains the intense diplomatic focus on Niigata:

Niigata is still celebrated for the number and beauty of its women. It contains 258 brothels, which also serve as inns. The taxes taken from prostitution and singing girls amounted in 1874 to 22,500 yen. (p 83, Japan No. 2 (1876))

Wenckstern only lists two such "commercial" reports for the 1870s and does so in these terms:

  1. Commercial Reports of H. M. Consuls in Japan for 1871 presented to Parliament, No 1, 94 pp. with 2 maps, 8vo, London, 1872 (1s 3d).
  2. Commercial Reports of H. M. Consuls in Japan 123 pp, 8vo, London, 1878.

Beginning in 1886 Wenckstern lists a long series of individual consul "trade" reports that cover the years from 1885-1905. These do not appear to be the compiled reports as seen in the "Blue Books," rather they are reports by individual Consuls (Yokohama, Hakodate, Hiogo and Osaka, Nagasaki, Formosa (Tainan), Shimonoseki, etc.) with an occasional "Trade of Japan" report. These individual reports generally range from 10-20 pages and seldom exceed 50 pages.

Condition. These books have paper wraps and are often found in poor condition with the covers faded and damaged and the paper on the spine broken and cracked. You sometimes see them offered with the spine taped or repaired. Additionally, they are generally found with library markings or stamps. I suspect that, because of the rather technical nature of the contents, these publication were primarily maintained in libraries or government and private achieves. In my experience, the typical condition for this material is "ex-library" and in "Good" condition. I consider sound "VG" or better books with no library marks or stamps to be worth a considerable premium.


Summary of "Blue Book" Reports for 1874-1884



Details of the 17 Reports Covering
the Years 1874 ~ 1884

  1. Japan No. 1 (1875) - covers the year of 1874, 84 pp.
    • Visit to Niigata, report by Mr. Grubbins to Sir H. Parkes

    • Reports from Consul Eusden (Hakodate), Consul Flowers (Nagasaki), Consul Robertson (Kanagawa) and Consul Annesley (Hiogo and Osaka).

    • The Kanagawa report details the making of lacquer ware from harvesting the varish producing plant to manufacture of the product. The report also gives statistics on the 18 miles of railroad from Yokohama to Yedo. Also includes a table listing, by country, number and tonnage (not by name) all foreign ships entering and clearing Yokohama (Port of Kanagawa). More ships and tonnage entered the port (357 ships - 434,080 tons) than cleared (346 ships - 429,334 tons).

    • The Osaka report contains statistics on coins struck at the Osaka Mint.

    • Summary of trade of Japan by Sir H. Parkes.


  2. Japan No. 2 (1876) - covers the year of 1875, 106 pp.
    • Reports from Consul Eusden (Hakodate), Consul Flowers (Nagasaki), Consul Robertson (Kanagawa), Mr. Woolley (Niigata) and Consul Annesley (Hiogo and Osaka).

    • The Niigata report contains extensive reporting on governmental activities as well as trade and commerce.

    • Summary of trade of Japan - actually titled "Yedo" - by Sir H. Parkes.

    • "Kagoshima" a report by Mr. George L. Hodges. The report outlines the geography, climate, population, products, manufacturing and industry of Kagoshima Ken. The report outlines the trade patterns for Kagoshima and includes comments on imports and exports to Okinawa ("Luikui and the islands").


  3. Japan No. 1 (1877) - covers the year of 1876, 87 pp - one fold out sketch map.
    • Reports from Consul Eusden (Hakodate), Consul Annesley (Hiogo and Osaka), Consul Robertson (Kanagawa), Consul Flowers (Nagasaki) and Vice Consul Troup/Sir H. Parkes (Niigata).

    • The Kanagawa report shows 2,554 foreign residents at the Port of Kanagawa. The majority were Chinese (1,033), followed by British (635) and US (240).

    • "Niigata" report by Vice Consul Troup and forwarded by Sir H. Parkes. The report indicates "no ostensible British trade to report upon." The report outlines the trade and commerce, port facilities, agriculture, mines, population and industries in the Niigata area. The report contains a two foldout "Sketch Map of the Greater Part of the Province of Echigo, Showing the Chief Products of the District Around Niigata." The report notes that while open to foreign commerce since 1869, "...Niigata does not fulfil the purpose for which it was opened, namely, to supply a port for foreign trade on this coast." (at page 74).

    • "Japan and Korea" by Sir. H. Parkes. The article outlines the trade between Japan and Corea under a new treaty that commenced in November of 1876. Several tables are presented showing statistics on the trade. The article also has notes on the famine in Korea and the city of Torai in Korea


  4. Japan No. 1 (1878) Summary - covers the year of 1876, 42 pp
    • No Reports from Consul.

    • "Summary of Foreign trade of Japan for 1876" by Sir H. Parkes (pages 1-15). A detailed account of foreign trade with text and numerous statistical tables. Cotton was the principal import and the silk trade the main export. The silk trade rose from $5.7+ million dollars in 1875 to $13.7 million dollars in 1876.

    • Review of the Japan Silk Trade from 1874-1877," Yokohama, March 1877, published in the Japan Mail, no author stated (pages 16-42).


  5. Japan No. 2 (1878) - covers the year of 1877, 123 pp
    • Reports from Consul Eusden (Hakodate), Consul Flowers (Hiogo and Osaka), Acting Consul Dohmen (Kanagawa), Consul Troup (Nagasaki) and Vice Consul Troup (Niigata).

    • The Hiogo and Osaka report is extensive (pages 16 - 51) with extensive remarks regarding the trade, commerce, geography, transportation system, educational institutions and people of that area.

    • "Summary of Foreign trade of Japan for 1877" by Sir H. Parkes (pages 81-91).

    • "Reports Respecting the Character and Cost of Internal Transport of Japan" by Sir H. Parkes, et. al. (pages 92-123)


  6. Japan No. 1 (1879) - covers the year of 1878, 131 pp - three foldout charts
    • Reports from Consul Eusden (Hakodate), Consul Flowers (Hiogo and Osaka), Acting Consul Dohmen (Kanagawa), Consul Troup (Nagasaki) and Mr. Enslie (Niigata).

    • Included with the Hakodate Report are three large multi-fold charts (1 fold out and 2 folds down) which show the fluctuations of the price of rice in Niigata from October 1877 through September 1878. While there is a report at the back of the book on Niigata, the charts are at the front included with the Hakodate report.

    • "Corea" by Sir H. Parkes (pages 104-131). Based upon the "new relations" between Japan and Korea, Parkes includes this report on Japan/Korea trade. The report also encloses several newspaper articles on Japan/Korea relations and life in general for Japanese residing in that country.


  7. Japan No. 1 (1880) - covers the year of 1878, 29 pp
    • Reports from Consul Woolley (Niigata).

    • "Summary of Foreign trade of Japan for 1878" by Sir H. Parkes (pages 10-29). Parkes notes that the Americans are encourging the Japanese to adopt high protective tarriff as a "means of limiting the import trade, in which the United States is only lsightly interested." Cotton continues to be the major import into Japan and raw silk the major export out of Japan. The raw silk trade is at $8.9 milliong dollars showing a steady decline since 1876.


  8. Japan No. 2 (1880) - covers the year of 1879, 58 pp - 1 foldout chart
    • Reports from Acting Consul Aston (Hiogo and Osaka), Acting Consul Dohmen (Kanagawa) and Consul Troup (Nagasaki).

    • Consul Aston's report contains a foldout chart (2 folds out) titled "Table Shewing Fluctuations in Bank Sight Sterling on London for the Year 1879.


  9. Japan No. 1 (1881) - covers the year of 1879, 23 pp
    • Reports from Acting Consul Eusden (Hakodate).

    • "General Report of the Foreign Trade of Japan for 1879" by J.G. Kennedy (pages 13-23). While the report notes a slight falling in imports into Japan, it notes an increase the export of silk and tea from Japan. The report also notes the completion of a railway between Otsu and Kyoto.


  10. Japan No. 2 (1881) - covers the year of 1880, 33 pp
    • Reports from Acting Consul Quin (Hakodate), Acting Consul Aston (Hiogo and Osaka), Acting Consul Dohmen (Kanagawa) and Consul Troup (Nagasaki).

    • "General Report on the Foreign trade of Japan for 1880" by Mr. Kennedy (pages 70-83). This report contains a chart showing imports and exports from 1865 through 1880. Kennedy reports that during this 15 year period "there has been a considerable apparent balance of trade against Japan...." with imports exceeding exports by 58+ million dollars.


  11. Japan No. 1 (1882) Part I - covers the year of 1881, pages 1-28, 28 pp
    • Reports from Acting Consul Quin (Hakodate) and Acting Consul Aston (Hiogo and Osaka).


  12. Japan No. 1 (1882) Part II - covers the year of 1881, pages 29-99, 71 pp
    • Consul Enslie (Kanagawa), Acting Consul Hall (Nagasaki).

    • "General Report of the Foreign Trade of Japan for 1881" by Sir H. Parkes (pages 82-99). The report notes that "...returns of 1881 show a material decrease on those of the preceeding year..." Parkes cautions that there is a "glut" of British goods shipped into Japan and advises "...greater caution on the part of shippers."


  13. Japan No. 4 (1883) - covers the year of 1882, 51 pp
    • Reports from Vice Consul Enslie (Hakodate), Acting Consul Woolley (Hiogo and Osaka) and Acting Consul Hall (Nagasaki).

    • "Report by Sir H. Parkes on the Japanese Trade with Corea during 1882" (pages 49-51). Parkes reports a falling off of the Japan Korea trade during 1882 which he attributes in part to "serious political disturbances which occurred in Corea during the month of July, last (1882) and which continued for several months." Parkes notes that British Consular Service officials have recently visited Corea but cautioned " would not be wide to form large expectations as to the prospects of Corean trade" (p 50).


  14. Japan No. 1 (1884) (Trade Reports) Part I - covers the year of 1883, 96 pp
    • Report from Consul Robertson (Kanagawa).

    • "Annual Summary of the Foreign Trade of Japan for 1882" by H. Parkes (pages 26-42). Parkes notes that this is the first annual report compiled from Japanese government statistics as opposed to data that was submitted by the various British consuls in Japan. He notes out that Japanese exports (1882) are now exceeding imports by almost $9 million where the previous year they were $0.7 million less than imports.

    • "Report by Mr. Gubbins of Taxation and Land Tenure in Japan" by John H. Gubbins, Acting Assistant Japanese Secretary to the British Legation (pages 43-90, tax and 91-96, land tenure).


  15. Japan No. 3 (1884) (Trade Reports) Part II - covers the year of 1883, pages 97-158, 62 pp
    • Reports from Consul Troup (Hiogo & Osaka), Consul Woolley (Hakodate) and Consul Robertson (Kanagawa).

    • This report is a continuation of Japan No. 1 (1884) (Trade Reports), Part I (above). It starts at page 97 which is where Part I stopped. This is the first time I have noticed the pages for the reports running in sequence. In the past, each report/book started from page 1.


  16. Japan No. 4 (1884) (Trade Reports) Part III - covers the year of 1883, pages 159-197, 39 pp
    • Report from Consul Hall (Nagasaki).

    • This report is a continuation the prior two 1883 reports.

    • "Summary of the Foreign Trade of Japan for the Year 1883" prepared by Mr. Longford and forwarded by F.R. Plunkett (pages 176-197).


  17. Japan No. 2 (1885) (Trade Reports) - covers the year of 1884, pages 116 pp
    • Reports from Consul Quin (Hakodate), Consul Troup (Hiogo & Osaka), Consul Robertson (Kanagawa) and Consul Enslie (Nagasaki).

    • The Kanagawa report introduces new topics such as an extensive discussion of railways, telegraphs, immigration policies,

    • "Statement of the Export and Import Trade of Japan for the year 1883" (pages 95-6).

    • "General Report on the Trade of Japan for the year 1884" (pages 97-116) by Mr. F.R. Plunkett. This report points out "...the continuing decrease in imports from Great Britain, the maintenance of the large value of exports to the United States, and the sudden increase of nearly 60 per cent in the amount of trade between Japan and Germany." (page 97)



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