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“Tragedy in China-Town”: Murder, Civilization, and the End of Extraterritoriality in Yokohama

From: The Journal of Japanese Studies
Volume 39, Number 2, Summer 2013
pp. 247-270 | 10.1353/jjs.2013.0063



On the day that extraterritoriality ended for Westerners living in Japan (July 17, 1899), American Robert Miller murdered three people in Yokohama. The heinous nature of his crime led Japanese to question anew the civilizational logic that originally justified the system of extraterritoriality. Using newspaper accounts and diplomatic records, this article examines how this case triggered public debates regarding Japan’s symbolic position vis-à-vis both China and the West. Moreover, the lower-class social context of the crime suggests that Japanese and foreign communities were not sequestered in separate spheres but represented an important dimension of cultural exchange in the treaty port.