Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Japanese Bow to Queen Emma, Western Women and Hoop Skirts in Hawaii

I happened to find this article in the August 16, 1860 edition of Honolulu's Pacific Commercial Advertiser.

Apparently this story is quoted from a story that appeared in the New York Journal of Commerce. It refers to the meeting of the Japanese ambassadorial delegation with Queen Emma along with notable (but unnamed in the story) English and American ladies in Honolulu. Queen Emma would have been the first female head of state to be bowed to by the Japanese.

It also records the first time the visiting Japanese encountered what we call hoop skirts worn by women in those days:

The Japanese in Honolulu.

Pacific Commercial Advertiser: August 16, 1860

The following is related, by the correspondent of the N.Y. Journal of Commerce, of the reception of the Japanese during their stay here:

“Her Majesty the Queen entered the throne-room, all the gentlemen having withdrawn into the ante room, accompanied by her ladies of honor, most of whom were Americans or English, the King’s sister, Victoria, taking a position on the left of the throne. The Queen is young, and rather stout in form; but of an intelligent and agreeable face, and speaks English with perfect facility, as she is bound to do, since her father was an Englishman, though her mother was a native.

“The American party was first presented, when the Japanese ambassadors were called upon to pass the unknown ordeal. All of us were wide-awake to see how their spirit would stand this. They had never bowed to a woman; never had they seen a woman on the throne; seldom if ever they had seen a woman in a public assembly. As much as they were confounded by the dress her majesty wore, so unlike to that of Japanese ladies whose silken robes, as well as those of the men, avoid all waste of cloth, by conforming to natural proportions, and not seeking balloon inflation. The hoops and crinoline of the Queen of the Sandwich Islands would have driven the most ambitious Broadway ladies to desperation.

“When some of the members of the Japanese suite first came ashore and wandered through the streets, and the first time saw ladies wearing such dresses they were utterly confounded, thinking they were only equal to the solid bodies, which filled them! Such women, English and American! They had never dreamt of it!

“One of them in his simplicity, not in disrespect or indelicacy, was prompted to touch the side of one of the walking balloons, when yielding to the gentle pressure it caved in, and the Japanese saw that, as all is not gold which shines, so all is not woman that moves. Amazed and amused, the good natured and facetious Japanese burst into shouts of laughter.”

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