"Fair Japan" Design and Layout

The Fair Japan Midway exhibit was labeled "ethnological" for what Midway Director of Concessions Frederick Taylor called its educational features. The fairly large space occupied by the exhibit on the South Midway was closely built up with example Japanese buildings and gardens.

The layout appears to be that of one or more "streets" in a village leading between the buildings: a tea house, theater, royal dwelling house, Nikkei Temple, and numerous artisan shops and bazaars selling toys, silk, and decorated ivory items made by the artisans. There was also a bazaar that could be entered from both within and without the exhibit which had for sale pottery, porcelains, and other products made in Japan.

All construction work on the exhibit and buildings was of bamboo and other native materials, designed and constructed without nails, screws or bolts in the Japanese tradition. The theater was especially handsome, having been decorated by Kintaro Sato, brought from Japan by Manager Yumeto Kushibiki for the task; he painted the walls a delicate blue with tall chrysanthmums rising from the floor "to a considerable height," over which a flock of cranes flew in the distance. Plants and shrubs specially trained and pruned, some resembling animals and birds, were brought from Japan and planted in the gardens.

Once a visitor paid the $.25 ($4.99), children $.15 ($2.99) to enter the exhibit, s/he could choose to walk around the gardens and shop at the bazaars. If interested, a visitor could pay an additional $.10 ($2.00) for a cup of tea in the tea house served by a Japanese woman colorfully costumed as a Geisha. Also extra was a tour of the royal residence at $.10. The theater provided entertainments every half-hour ($.25 adults, $.15 children) which included Yumari & Yamada's celebrated troupe of acrobats, jugglers, tightrope walkers, trapeze work, and trained dogs. Music was provided during performances of dancers by an orchestra of women.

Outside the bamboo walls enclosing the exhibit, which also served as residence for the Japanese staffing the exhibit, was a row of jinrikishas available for rental by Midway visitors. The fare was $1.00 ($20.00) per hour or $.25 ($4.99) for a short ride. Some news articles noted the distinctly Caucasian features of many of the jinrikishaw drivers...

Overall, Fair Japan took in $111,751, making it the 12th highest in revenue of the Midway concessions. It was well-regarded for its clean, polite and restful atmosphere. No barkers were out front to entice visitors in, and many artisans seemed diffident to the point of reluctance when visitors asked to buy their handicrafts. As one writer said, "All is sweet and wholesome and enjoyable, without a sense that something is hidden which may offend if revealed. The note of "Fair Japan" is charm. It is all delight, as in the fabled fairy land, and leaves a feeling of pleasure without regret."

The inhabitants of Fair Japan left the Exposition immediately upon its closing, November 1, after showing off their finest costumes, some so handsome as to be usually reserved for holidays, in a well-publicized final week. All of the plants and shrubbery imported from Japan and installed at the exhibit were auctioned on November 14 at J.H. Rebstock's Greenhouse on Elmwood Avenue.


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