We think that our country is the most sacred divine

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Unformatted text preview: ave rise to the constant danger—and all too frequent occurrence—of fires that consumed large portions of cities. For example, a devastating fire in 1657 made necessary the extensive rebuilding of Edo. In 1874, after a fire that gutted the Ginza area of central Tokyo, the government took the opportunity to order the construction of a row of some three hundred two-story brick buildings for the use of merchants on this bustling thoroughfare. Contemporary woodblock prints show how grand and exotic these buildings appeared to the Japanese of that day. The government hoped that the Ginza would serve as a model to encourage others to build these new fireproofed buildings; and the newspapers declared that people who walked down the Ginza could enjoy the enchanted feeling of being in a foreign country.9 Although more and more public and commercial buildings on Western lines were built in the cities, the construction of Western private homes was undertaken much more slowly. The higher cost of such homes was one reason; another was the continuing, overwhelming preference of the Japanese for their traditional, native-style homes. This was one area in which Westernization made little headway in Japan, and even today many Japanese continue to live, as they have for centuries, in houses consisting chiefly of sparsely furnished rooms with matted floors upon which to sit and sleep. In intellectual circles, the great national quest for civilization and enlightenment in early Meiji gave rise to a number of study and discussion groups devoted to the question of transforming Japan into a modern state. Of these, the most influential was the Meirokusha or “Meiji Six Society” founded in the sixth year of Meiji, 1873, by some ten of the more prominent Westernizers of the day. The members of the Meirokusha met twice a month to discuss such subjects as politics, the economy, education, religion, the Japanese language, and women’s rights. In 1874 they began publication of the Meiji Six Magazine for the purpose of publishing articles on their views. A large percentage of the Meirokusha membership comprised men who had engaged in Western learning before the Restoration and had been employed as translators and teachers by t...
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