About 1,500 Japanese, including sumo wrestlers, showed up Nov. 3, 1906, at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco to celebrate Emperor Mutsuhito's 54th birthday.

The San Francisco Call reported: "The al fresco programme of the day included all the characteristic attractions associated with Japanese, and was remarkable for, but one thing. That was the strangely accented modesty of the dozen or more wrestlers who furnished the chief sport of the day.

"In Japan a wrestler is considered quite dressed when he has his hair parted and his finger nails pared, but someone told the chief of the troupe that appeared yesterday that white skin and brawny loins shocked Americans even when draped by breechclouts. The result was that the wrestlers ran from all cameras and came near mobbing a couple of persistent photographers who were trying to get negatives of their interlocked figures in action."

The Call published a photo showing two contestants wielding two-handed bamboo swords shaped like the steel ones used by samurai.

Japanese Consul Kisaburo Uyeno missed the birthday party, the Call reported, to meet with Secretary of Commerce and Labor Victor Metcalf.

President Theodore Roosevelt had sent Metcalf to San Francisco mediate between the city's school board and the representative of the 91 Japanese children refused public-school entry.

A compromise was reached. The children would be allowed to go to San Francisco public schools, and Japan would stop issuing passports to Japanese laborers.

Meanwhile, some of Uyeno's staff, including Dr. Nakahayashi, who wore his lieutenant's uniform and plumed cap, attended the birthday celebration.

The Japanese Tea Garden was the scene of many events promoting Japan-U.S. friendship.

In May 1909, two Japanese training cruisers arrived in San Francisco with 600 enlisted men and 90 midshipmen, who were entertained at the open air theater in the tea garden.

"Coming ashore at 9 a.m. the Japanese visitors were first conveyed to the beach in front of the Cliff house, the midshipmen in automobiles and the jackies in a number of special trolleys," reported The Associated Press.

After the beach stop, the visitors went to Golden Gate Park, where the Japanese sailors marched in columns of four to the bandstand.

"The city band rendered a musical program of which the American and Japanese anthems were conspicuous and appreciated features," according to the AP. "After the concert was finished and the refreshments dispatched the visiting navy boys were escorted to the tea garden where special seats were reserved for them in front of the stage."

American and Japanese officials spoke. Adm. H. Ijichi thanked his hosts and said that a country's navy was not primarily for fighting, but for the preservation of peace among nations.

Days Gone By appears Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at nildarego@comcast.net.