Defining the “Globetrotter” Phenomenon in late Nineteenth Century Japan

Japan’s growing tourism industry from the late nineteenth century through to the twentieth century has been written about in extensive detail. The features of the growing tourism industry may be defined through the “experiences of the globetrotters.”[1]As Allan Hockley’s essay has examined such a groups experiences, perceptions and impressions which were left behind.

However, when defining what in fact was meant by the term “Globetrotter”, Hockley has provided a number of examples in order to better understand the label, as well as its associated connotations. Through detailing the boom of Thomas Cook within the early 1870’s, Hockley designates the group as being wealthy individuals who embarked upon travel, made available due to improvements in transport links to Japan and other areas of the globe. He points out however that individuals did not have to travel to multiple places across the globe to earn the title of “Globetrotter”. The first use of the term arose in William Elliot Griffis employment of the term in his The Mikado’s Empire,1876, as Hockley has proposed. Griffis described the group as having “become so frequent and temporarily numerous in Yokohama as to be recognized as a distinct class.”[2] The issue was thus not the naming of said group, however the connotations which were associated with the group which were determined by “a manner of travel [through] commercial tours.”[3] Such publications were curtailed to enforce this manner of commercial travel such as W.E.L Keeling’s 1880 Tourists Guide to Yokohama.[4] Whilst this in itself may hardly be considered as negative, it was however viewed in this manner by critiques of the group such as Basil Chamberlain who saw such types of  travel as “ a superficial engagement with the places, people and culture one encountered.”[5]Thus, the term “Globetrotter” fell to the realms of largely negative responses from late nineteenth century travel writers within Japan at the time.


Hockley, Allan, ‘Globetrotters’ Japan: Places, Foreigners on the Tourist Circuit in Meiji Japan’ MIT Visualising Cultures, 2010, <> [accessed April 2020].


[1] Allan, Hockley, ‘Globetrotters’ Japan: Places, Foreigners on the Tourist Circuit in Meiji Japan’ MIT Visualising Cultures, 2010, <> [accessed April 2020].


[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

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