Yokohama to rebuild famous 19th-century British wharf

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YOKOHAMA -- Japan is to rebuild the historic "British wharf" at Yokohama -- an object of fascination when it was first built by British engineers almost 150 years ago.

Popularly known as the zo-no-hana or "elephant's trunk" because of its distinctive bent shape, the wharf was recorded in famous woodblock prints of the period and in early photographs.

In the mid 1800s some 90 per cent of all goods traded between Japan and the outside world were loaded and unloaded there.

Many of the products Japan now takes for granted, from western foodstuffs to musical instruments, were first seen at this spot. Foreign inventions such as beer, ice cream, football and even pet dogs spread across Japan from Yokohama, introduced by the early European and American residents.

The "elephant's trunk" was built by two British engineers in 1868, of whom history records almost nothing but their names, George Whitfield and W A Dawson. Thirty years later another Briton, Henry Spencer Palmer, oversaw the construction of the harbour and upgraded the wharf, establishing Yokohama's unchallenged status as Japan's main port.

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