Anecdotes of Yokohama (1)
Hisatsugu Shiba, CGD YOK

Two years have already gone by since SK and part of NSH CGD were relocated from their Marunouchi premises in Tokyo to the new SH Building in Yokohama, birth-place of SH in 1865. Staff members, including myself, have now acclimatized ourselves to this port City and its environments. As a resident of this city, I feel duty-bound to introduce to our readers the past activities of SH by way of excavating material from among numerous publications, induding essays and novels concerning Yokohama and its old-time inhabitants.
Japan is now being deluged with some 37000 kinds of new books and magazines a year, averaging one publication every 14 minutes. To pick out the word Siber from this massive printed matter, requires tremendous efforts, some skill and a keen interest, and much depends simply on luck. Many people may show interest, in the history of Yokohama, but who, besides a member of SH staff, cares to hunt around for the name of this company? lt is very much like digging and finding a speck of diamond in a huge pile of ore, but I have made it my aim to introduce my findings of the rare stone in a series of anecdotes, starting with this issue.

Chapter 1: Siber and Silk

I am sure no one will object to my associating the name Siber with silk when unfolding the history of Siber Hegner.
Last April, one of Japan’s top publishers, the Bungei Shunju, came out with the serial „Silk Guy Ithohei“, by Mitsugu Saotome, a popular and prolific writer who in 1968, at the age of 43, won the coveted Naoki prize This is a literary prize awarded to outstanding young, as well as promising, contemporary writers who have contributed to raising the literary standards of popular novels.
The story depicts the life of „Itohei“, the nickname of Heihachi Tanaka, who rose overnight fame in the early Yokohama business circles, and whose name appears in various records, such as the following list on silk transactions.

List 1:
Raw Silk Transactious in 1879
Rank Sellers

2Zenzaburo Kameya310207
14Heihachi Tanaka15525

Rank Buyers (Exporters)
1Siber & Brennwald243337
2Bavier & Co.224943
3Valmale Schoene & Milsom169762
6Jardine, Matheson & Co.134268
16Cornes & Co.37912

Unit 1 kin = 0.6 kg. From the „Study of Local His-tory", April 1989 by T. Nishikawa

The above list shows that in 1879 Siber & Brennwald was the biggest buyer of raw silk, while the "Silk Guy" ranked no. 14. In his essay on the historical background of Yokohama, T. Nishikawa observes that Zenzaburo Kameya, as indicated in List 1, sold to Siber & Brennwald 9720 kgs of raw silk in 1876. His successor, Sankei Hara was instrumental in expanding business and became famous as a patron of the arts. The Japanese garden "Sankei-en", now one of the famous spots in Yokohama and named after him, was donated to the City. This company is still very much in existence and has the responsability of being caretaker of the SH Building in Yokohama, testimony of a business relation which has been kept up for a century Jardine Matheson & Co. had their premises at Ichiban-kan (no. 1 Residence) where the Silk Center Building with its silk museum now stands. Cornes & Co., a British firm was founded in Yokohama in 1861 and has recently entered into business relations with CGD in connection with automobiles.

The novel relates how the "Silk Guy Itohei" builds up a fortune from the raw silk business but offers hardly any clue about silk transactions with Siber & Brennwald. However, it is assumed that such dealings did exist, as in the case of Zenzaburo Kameya. Contrary to expectations, however, there is a scene where Siber shows a newspaper ad to Itohei of a tender calling for the installation of gas lamps in the international settlement.
My next contribution will be a vivid description of how Siber took part in the installation of gas lights in Yokohama, as related in another novel.

List 2:

1Siber & Brennwald CH391319997291625449412472162238703791
2Bavier & Co CH97369111301166164119514001365225481533
3Sieber-Waser CH119615551647142828972927
4Jardine, Matheson & Co GB16547227724911161026771105114122315
5Strachan & Thomas GB8894936891421103717867405891931803
6Valmale, Schoene & M. GB138034713215531505121011209611127599