Yamakawa Hotel / Nagasaki Joe Hotel (19??-19??) [????-????]

Submitted by David on Sat, 12/19/2009 - 17:14
Current condition
Demolished / No longer exists

62 and 63 Gloucester Road. (On the west side of the junction of Luard & Gloucester Roads).

The location is given in the report on the annual session of the Licensing Board, reported on page 5 of the 8th Nov 1939 issue of the HK Daily Press. It notes that a Restaurant Adjunct Licence was issued to 'Tainosuke Yamakawa, Nagasaki Joe Hotel, 62 and 63, Gloucester Road ground floors.'

The unusual numbering, with a building having both an odd and even number, is because at the time Gloucester Road was the seafront, and only had buildings along the south side of the road.

Notes from reader barco508 about this place:

The exact location of Nagasaki Joe restaurant is discussing in other Chinese forum based on the below 2 photos. (http://www.uwants.com/viewthread.php?tid=6167379&extra=page%3D1&page=265).

I did find some interesting news about Nagasaki Joe restaurant, but no hard and cross reference to support it

Does anyone have any ideas?

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 20:48
Nagasaki Joe Restaurant 1
Date picture taken


Submitted by
HO Lim -peng (not verified)
Mon, 12/21/2009 - 07:52

Some fascinating detail. The young ladies grouped to the far left by the column, and in front of the bar, look like bar girls - touting for business for the bar, or is there trouble, like a fight or a police raid, going on inside?

Many cooked food sellers outside. The sailors' uniforms don't look British, maybe French.


And look at the balcony for a contrast - a child's slide and rocking horse.

I don't think there's any raid or fight going on, everyone looks relaxed in the photo. If there was some trouble going on they'd all be looking towards it.


Photos that show this Place


Don't know if it is the same person but in 1917 Joe Yamakawa applied to the Liquor Licensing Board to sell by retail intoxicating liquors at the premises of 26 Praya East.

Barco508, you're welcome. If you're ever looking for information about pubs / hotels, the licensing sessions are a good source of information.

Moddsey, well spotted. I couldn't understand why he didn't appear in any of the earlier licensing sessions, but you've cleared that up - he does, but under another name.

In the full text of the 1940 article where he was sent to prison, there's a sentence: This was his first sentence of any kind during his 23 years of restaurant keeper. So that matches up nicely with the 1917 mention you found.

The 1920 licensing session mentions the renewal of a Restaurant Keeper's Adjunct Licence issued to 'Mr. Joe Yamakawa, Yamakawa Hotel'.

Then there's a short piece from the St Petersburg Times dated 27 Dec 1942, but referring to a visit to 'Nagasaki Joe's in Hong Kong' in 1927. So I'm guessing that even when the formal name was 'Yamakawa Hotel', the man and the bar / restaurant were already known as Nagasaki Joe('s).

The article continued 'There are girls and music and lots of liquor and fun. The proprietor is a right guy, clapping you on the back and all. But he always seemed to be waiting for something, patiently.'

It ends with the suggestion that Joe was waiting for the Japanese invasion of 1941. The visible snippets of the book 'Hostage to Fortune' look as they are on the same track. That he was connected with the Japanese military, and their pre-invasion preparations. If any readers own the book, please could you let us know the text from those pages?

If you know more about Nagasaki Joe, and especially his wartime role, please leave a comment below.

Regards, David

I can't tell from today's street numbers which side of Luard number 62 & 63 stood. But looking at this photo again (and assuming it was a photo of the Gloucester Rd premises), it looks more likely that the building was on the SW corner.

Nagasaki Joe Restaurant 1

From the shadows on the right of the photo, it looks like it was taken in the afternoon, so the sun will be shining along Gloucester Road from the west. Also this photo is taken from a high vantage point, ie a building on the opposite side of the road. We know there weren't any buildings on the opposite side of Gloucester Rd at this time, so we must be looking down from the other side of Luard Road.

It'll be good to find some other photos of this part of Gloucester Road to confirm.

This photo of 1945 Wanchai should be able to show where Nagasaki Joe was located. Luard Road is the north-south road on the right. If it is on the SW corner, I assume it is where the current 'Joe Bananas' is located. There is a tall building on the extreme right of photo.

1945 Wanchai






Prior to the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, the Japanese Army was able to call on the services of local Japanese for intelligence gathering activites. On Page 36 in Philip Snow's "The Fall of Hong Kong" the following is recorded:

"At Nagasaki Joe's, a popular Japanese bar in the Wanchai district, a pint of beer cost 10 cents less than anywhere else in town; and the girls made a beeline for British naval ratings. Officials employed by the local Japanese institutions began to develop a new urge to seek out British friends."


Submitted by
Susan Blumberg-Kason (not verified)
Sun, 12/20/2009 - 11:15

For more information about Japanese owned businesses in Hong Kong before and during the war, check out Philip Snow's "The Fall of Hong Kong" (Yale University Press). I'm not sure if he talks about Nagasaki Joe, but the name rings a bell (and not from Martin Booth's "Gweilo").

The Luk Kwok Hotel was completed in 1933.

This photo from the HKPL dated 1934-1935 taken next to the China Fleet Club  shows The Sailors Home and Missions to Seamen and the Luk Kwok Hotel in the distance. However it appears that the tenements fronting Gloucester Road between Fenwick St and Luard Rd have not been built yet.


T, thanks for pointing out the Luk Kwok Hotel. If we look at it's place, and scroll down to the photos that show it, the 1964 photo shows the buildings on both corners of Luard & Gloucester. If you click through to the photo on Flickr and view the full-size version you can get a good close-up. In 1964, the Nagasaki Joe building houses 'Johnson Tailor'.

Moddsey & Susan, I've only glanced through Philip Snow's book in the library, but it looked like a good read. It doesn't have the detail of say Tony Banham's book, instead it gives a much broader coverage and looks at all parties involved. I'll have to get a copy for a proper read.

Barco508, that article gives some more info on Nagasaki Joe's fate. It shows he was interred after the British returned in 1945. I assume he would have been repatriated to Japan after that? The court case was prosecuting a chinese national who in July 1945 bought the restaurant that Nagasaki Joe was running (not the Gloucester Rd premises). It must have been clear to him then that the end of the war was close, and cash would  be the most useful thing he could have.

To find the licensing session reports, use the HK Public library's search page, and search old HK newspapers for 'licensing' in the content. To speed up working through the results I only look at newspapers dated Oct / Nov / Dec in a given year, as that's the time of year when the annual licensing sessions were held.

Regards, David

The name change from the Yamakawa Hotel to the Nagasaki Joe Hotel occurred during the licensing session on 9 November 1936. The address given for both premises was 62-63 Gloucester Road.

To give an indication when the building was erected, an application to the Licensing Board for the above premises known as the Yamakawa Hotel was heard during the licensing session on 8 November 1935.

I looked in Philip Snow's book and found one reference to it on page 36. It only listed the cost of a pint of beer and that it was a popular bar for British servicemen. When I looked at the footnote for that passage, I was brought to Emily Hahn's "Hong Kong Holiday" (1946), Gillingham, "At the Peak", Kevin Rafferty's "City on the Rocks", Oliver Lindsay's "The Lasting Honour" (1978), and Wright-Nooth's "Prisoner of the Turnip-Heads".

I've read Emily Hahn's "China to Me" which detailed HK during WWII.

In 1940, a Mrs Mitsuko Ohta (his wife?) took over the licence of the running of the Hotel whilst 'Nagasaki Joe' was imprisoned.

However, on 3 November 1941, the Nagasaki Joe Hotel no longer appears in the licensing sessions. A fresh application by a person called Soares (Portuguese?) for the same premises in the name of the Dixie Kitchen was made to the Liquor Licensing Board. The new premises sounds very American. Your guess is as good as mine if "Nagasaki Joe' was involved in the new operation. I think he would have known that the invasion of Hong Kong was on the horizon.

I am not familiar with the topic but have just stumbled upon the nice photos of the place. 
I don't know what I am missing, but to me the location of the place is pretty straightforward with all the information you have shown here. 

We have an address "Gloucester Road 6263". 
We have a photo with shadows that tell us the direction, that it was situated at the north-east corner of a block on Gloucester Road. 
Looking at the map, China Huarong Center, 60 Gloucester Road, now is at the north-east corner of the junction between gloucester road and Luard Road. The next number is 64-66 which belongs to Pico Tower, on the opposite side of Luard Road (north-west corner). 

So the hotel must be at the north-east corner where China Huarong Centre is now. The street numbers 62 and 63 were merged with 60. That happens quite often. 



In the original photos, I think Luard Road is the road in the foreground and Gloucester Road is on the right facing the harbour. It may be the north west corner of the Luard Road and Gloucester Road intersection.


The Japanese proprietor of the Nagasaki Joe Beer Hall in Wanchai is being held by the police on a charge of attempted murder of his wife, it is learned.

It is alleged that just after the closing hour, about 1 a.m. on Saturday, he had a quarrel with his wife and was alleged to have stabbed her with a dagger, wounding her in the throat. 

The victim was taken to the Queen Mary Hospital were (sic) she is now undergoing treatment." 

Source: Hong Kong Daily Press, page 12, 5th March 1940