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Western Influence on Japanese Traditions

This took a variety of forms. For example, in 1886, the empress of Japan, Haruko, adopted Western-style dress and wore it throughout her life in a gesture symbolic of the contribution of women to Japan's modernization. However, "the vast majority of Japanese women continued to wear kimono well into the twentieth century" (Hastings 677). Hastings argues that the adoption of Western dress by the imperial family and mandated elite officials functioned as a "symbol of the disestablishment of the samurai class and the equality of all Japanese" (679) promulgated in the post-shogunate Meiji period. While Western dress was identified as a marker of modernity that distinguished the West from Japan, the empress made a point of invoking the history, within Japan, of mandated dress codes. The geopolitical message to the "Western treaty powers" was that Japan was just as civilized as any civilized nation (Hastings 681ff).

Many Japanese men feared that Western dress would allow women to accommodate themselves easily to dances and masquerades as well as to diplomatic receptions and charity bazaars. . . . What particularly troubled Japanese men about the Western gowns and the social events they facilitated was the possibility that their wives, sisters, and daughters would be required to act like geisha or at least behold the antics of such professionals. . . . Japanese who supported Western dress for both men and women as a measure of their enlightened cosmopolitanism found themselves in opposition to foreigners who believed that Japanese clothing was more appropriate for Japanese women because it was more beautiful. . . . Japanese men complained that Western clothes deformed the body (Hastings 687).

In the background of the Meiji-era adoption of Western dress by Japan's highest elites was a whole range of cultural, political, and social influences from the West. Indeed, the empress's Western dress is important almost entirely as a symbol. Westney...

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Western Influence on Japanese Traditions. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 11:24, August 20, 2017, from
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