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Unformatted text preview: elegraph lines, a national postal service, industrial 240 Encounter with the West factories, and, especially exciting to the Japanese, gas-burning streetlamps
that “made the night as bright as the day.” Most of these innovations
were, of course, indispensable to modernization; but many others were
just marginally important or were even ludicrous fads reflecting the craze
among some people to “become Western.”
Western-style uniforms were first adopted by the Japanese military
before the Restoration and were made standard for policemen, train conductors, and other civil functionaries within a few years after the beginning of the modern era.5 During the 1870s, Western clothes, deemed
more practical and up-to-date, were increasingly worn by men in the
cities, often combined amusingly with items of the native costume. Thus,
it was not unusual to see men sporting kimonos over long pants or suit
jackets and hakama skirts. Women and people in the rural areas, on the
other hand, were much slower in adopting the sartorial ways of the West.
Western shoes, moreover, presented a special problem, for the Japanese
foot, splayed from the traditional wearing of sandals, frequently could not
be fitted into footgear imported from abroad.
But whereas the shift to Western wearing attire was made erratically,
and never completely, the transition to the Western custom of cropped
hair for men became something of a national issue. The Japanese are
extraordinarily sensitive to ridicule by others. No doubt this sensitivity
has been heightened by the minimal contact they have had with foreigners
through much of their history. In the early Meiji period, as they sought
to “catch up with the West,” they also faced the practical problem (already noted in the discussion of the Iwakura Mission) that, so long as
the Western nations regarded their ways as barbaric, it would be that
much more difficult to secure revision of the unequal treaties and achieve
complete independence. Hence, the Japanese government either...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13