Organized Panel Session
Establishing Japan’s treaty ports and integrating them into international markets and maritime shipping networks was not an easy or uniform process. This paper examines two of these ports in terms of their shipping networks, harbor infrastructures, and domestic distribution channels. Doing so reveals that although Osaka was Japan’s primary economic city in the mid-nineteenth century, its inability to accommodate large steamships meant Kobe rapidly outpaced it in foreign trade. Nonetheless, the two ports developed a close and complex relationship as Kobe began to function as a relay port for much of Osaka’s international trade. Using contemporary maps, graphs, statistics, and other visuals, this paper shows that the two measured quite differently in volumes and types of trade, in their standing as cosmopolitan spaces, and as hubs for the flow of people, goods, and ideas. Osaka’s relatively poor performance as a treaty port for the Western powers helped it establish its role as a key hub for Japanese shipping and as Japan’s foremost port for trade with countries across Northeast and Southeast Asia.