ASIA212Varley

Nevertheless as we broadly survey the human scene

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Unformatted text preview: Eau de Cologne to give sheen to his hair. He wears a padded silken kimono beneath which a calico undergarment is visible. By his side is his Western-style umbrella, covered in gingham. From time to time he removes from his sleeve with a painfully contrived gesture a cheap watch, and consults the time.7 Meanwhile, this newly enlightened man commented to his neighbor that “we really should be grateful that even people like ourselves can now eat beef, thanks to the fact that Japan is steadily becoming a truly civilized country.” Perhaps it was in celebration of the glory of beef that about this time some students invented sukiyaki, now one of the hallmarks of Japanese cuisine to many foreigners. In 1872 the Meiji government switched to the Western-style solar calendar from Japan’s traditional lunar calendar, which had been inherited from China many centuries earlier. About the same time, the government also adopted the practice of Sunday as a weekly day of rest and, perhaps most intriguing as an example of the infatuation with Western customs, made Christmas one of its national holidays. Even today Japan, a country with only a small Christian population, celebrates Christmas with considerable enthusiasm.8 Some of the more fervent advocates of bummei-kaika at the height of the Western fever in early Meiji times even went so far as to suggest that Japan should adopt English as its national language. But the most extreme suggestion was that, since Caucasians were observably superior to the people of all other races, the Japanese should intermarry with them as quickly as possible in order to acquire their higher ethnic qualities. One of the most ultimately profound changes wrought by modernization in Japan was the gradual adoption of Western building materials and architectural styles. Throughout their history, the Japanese had constructed their dwellings and other buildings almost entirely out of wood. 242 Encounter with the West With the growth in recent centuries of great urban centers like Edo and Osaka, this type of construction g...
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