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or tried to restrict practices, such as public bathing, tattooing, and the
sale of pornography, that they thought the foreigners found offensive.
And the wearing of the topknot, which had been the practice of Japanese
men for centuries, also came to be looked upon as primitive and unbecoming to the citizens of a modern Japan.
Again, it was the Japanese military who first cut their topknots in order
to wear the hats of their Western-style uniforms. By the early Meiji
period, all prominent Japanese men, including the emperor, wore their
hair cropped (and often grew fine beards and mustaches, like their
Western counterparts): indeed, it was very much the sign of the progressive man to wear his hair this way, and a popular jingle claimed: “If you
tap a cropped head, it will play the tune of civilization and enlightenment.”6 But the fashion was not immediately accepted by the lower
classes, and the Japanese government felt constrained to issue occasional
directives urging its adoption. Some headmen in rural villages are said to
have walked around reading the directives while still sporting their own Encounter with the West 241 topknots; others cut the topknots but let their “hair of regret” hang down
their backs. Not until about 1890 did the wearing of cropped hair by
men become universal in Japan.
Among the many Western fads, none was more conspicuous or symbolic of the humorous side of foreign borrowing than the eating of beef.
Owing to Buddhist taboos and a scarcity of game animals, the Japanese
had traditionally abstained from eating red meat. With the coming of
foreigners, however, restaurants specializing in beef dishes, especially gyûnabe or beef stew, began to crop up in the cities. A contemporary author
of “witty books,” Kanagaki Robun (1829–94), even wrote a collection of
satirical sketches entitled Aguranabe (Eating Stew Cross-Legged) about the
conversations of customers in a beef house who concluded that a man
could not be regarded as civilized unless he ate beef. Kanagaki’s description of one customer includes the observation that
he uses that scent called...
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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