Amita Co. artists: Minai, Torahiko Kanamori, Takeshi

Samurai Shokai [サムライ商会] (1895 ~ 1965)

Yozo Nomura

Samurai Shokai ("shokai" means "company") was the business of Yozo Nomura (野村洋三). The store played a major role in the development of Yokohama and eventually became the hallmark of the city.
Yozo Nomura was born on January 20, 1870, in Kogo Village (公郷村), Ono County (大野郡), under the name of Umetaro (梅太郎). In 1884, at the age of 14, Nomura ran away from home, changed his name to Yozo and went to Kyoto. A year after, in 1885, Yozo Nomura joined the Tokyo Senmon Gakko (東京専門学校) private school (today Waseda University). In 1890 he traveled to the United States to develop the export market for the tea industry. In 1893 Nomura traveled to the United States for the World Religious Conference, as an interpreter for Soyen Shaku of Engaku-ji.
In 1895 Yozo Nomura established in Yokohama the famous antiques shop Samurai Shokai. From what started as a small curio shop, Nomura turned this business into one of Japan's leading fine art suppliers. It sold silk, porcelain, lacquerware, jade, cloisonne, damascene and more. It even offered financial support to traditional craftsmen, such as silversmiths and lacquer artists, so they could produce high quality products. Samurai Shokai supplied their products to customers worldwide, utilizing the successful mail order procedure.
Nomura Yozo was very sociable person and liked to make new acquaintances. In 1895, on his return to Japan to establish Samurai Shokai, he served as a tour guide for Charles Person, the president of the New York Central Railroad Company. In 1899 he became acquainted with Tomitaro Hara (原富太郎) and supported the constraction of the Sankei-en garden, designed by the latter. In 1910 Nomura became acquainted with D. T. Suzuki, the famous Japanese-American Buddhist monk, essayist and philosopher, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963. In 1915 Yozo, at the request of the painter Yokoyama Taikan (横山大観) met the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Nomura Yozo (on the left) with Rabindranath Tagore (in the middle).

Established in 1895 and located at 20 Itchome Honcho, Yokohama, the Samurai Shokai became one of the most famous antiques store in Yokohama and its founder, Yozo Nomura, was called the king of art and antiques or "Curio King". The store, as it appears on many of the postcards and advertisements of the late Meiji era, was designed by the Japanese architect Oto Endo (遠藤於菟; 1866 ~ 1943) and was completed in 1907. For many years this unique building was the hallmark of the city.

Front view of the Samurai Shokai store in Yokohama.

Quickly becoming one of the most recognizable attractions of the city, Samurai Shokai appeared in several important guides of the time. Thomas Philip Terry, the famous American traveller and reporter, gives the following overview of the Samurai Shokai store in his 1926 book "Terry’s Guide to the Japanese Empire":
An old established, trustworthy house (highly spoken of) with one of the finest collections (second only in point of interest to the National Museum, at Tokyo) of curios and art objects in Japan. Recognised by antiquarians and art connoisseurs as headquarters for many of the beautiful products for which Japan is celebrated. The showrooms, filled with choice Japanese, Chinese and Korean carved furniture, porcelains, ivories, bronzes, brasses, silver pieces, damascene work, gold lacquer, mother-of-pearl inlays, tea-sets, chests, screens, brocades, silks, diamond, pearl, jade and other jewelry, etc., etc., rank among the city’s most interesting sights. English is spoken in all the departments. Prices are marked in plain figures, and there are no misrepresentations. Purveyors to the Imperial Japanese Household, and to the chief Museums of the world. Wholesale and retail. Manufacturers and exporters. Mail orders a specialty. Recommended.

The Samurai Shokai store in Yokohama: main hall (top-left), cloissones (top-right) and embroideries (bottom-left) departments, and the garden (bottom-right).

In 1923 the Great Kanto Earthquake struck Japan, almost completely destroying Yokohama and Tokyo. Although Yozo Nomura and his family were uninjured they were forced to leave Yokohama and upon their return found a scene of utter devastation, their premises had burnt to the ground and even the molten precious metals in the ashes had been looted. Crestfallen, but not broken, Nomura set about the reconstruction of his business and also rebuilt Yokohama's Grand Hotel. In 1924 Nomura Yozo was appointed to Chairman of the New Grand Hotel and was involved in the hotel's management until 1938, before becoming its director.
In 1942, shortly after the Second World War extended into the Pacific, Samurai Shokai closed its doors forever. The Grand Hotel in Yokohama became the temporary headquarters of General McArthur following the end of hostilities in August 1945. Nomura greeted McArthur on the steps of the New Grand Hotel, and dispite McArthur assuming Nomura was the hotel's manager, a mistake that Nomura immediately corrected McArthur with, the two men became friends.
William Craig (1929 ~ 1997), an American author, described the visit of General McArthur to the Grand Hotel in Yokohama during the last weeks of the World War II in the Pacific in his book "The Fall of Japan" (1968). An excerpt from this book says:
At the front entrance of the New Grand Hotel, Yozo Nomura, an elderly Japanese dressed in a morning coat, waited nervously for the Supreme Commander. When MacArthur arrived, he bowed and welcomed him. The general asked, "How long have you been the manager of this hotel?"
Nomura hastened to correct him: "I am not a manager, I am the owner. Welcome. I wish to offer my respects to you. During your stay, we'll do our very best to service you and I hope you'll like the room I'm going to show you."
As the flustered Japanese spoke, he was thinking that his greeting to such a man was absurd. Nevertheless, he went through the motions of treating MacArthur like a guest instead of a conqueror. He showed him to Room 315 and the connecting rooms. The suite was the best available in the hotel though hardly sumptuous by American standards.

Yozo Nomura in 1950s

In 1946 Yozo Nomura became the president of the Kanagawa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, serving in this role for 25 years. In 1952 he was additionally appointed to president of the Japan-America Society of Yokohama. Moreover, he served as a director of the Masaki Daiwa Pencil Manufacturing company and as a president of the Yokohama Precious Metal Dealers Association. Yozo Nomura, who had a reputation of a kind man, a Buddhist by religion, also founded The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in Japan.
Nomura Yozo had a wife Michi, to whom he married in 1898, two sons and two daughters. He passed away on March 24, 1965, at the age of 95.

Addresses and locations
Examples (from the web)