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Study Day: Meiji Japan

Saturday 27 January — Book now
10am to 5.30pm. Doors open at 9.30am. A Study Day organised by Neil Jackson for the Victorian Society and by Heidi Potter and Alejandra Armendariz-Hernandez for the Japan Society.

In January 1868 the Tokugawa Shogunate, who had controlled Japan for the last two hundred and thirty years relinquished power to the fifteen-year-old Emperor, now known posthumously as the Emperor Meiji. On this, the occasion of the sesquicentennial of the Meiji Restoration, the Victorian Society and the Japan Society are coming together to discuss how life in both Japan and the West changed during the Emperor Meiji’s reign which coincided, almost exactly, with the second half of Queen Victoria’s reign and Edward VII’s subsequent monarchy. The Emperor Meiji died in 1912. 

Martin Dusinberre, Professor of Global History at the University of Zurich, will start the day with an overview of Meiji Japan, setting the scene for the following papers.

Sir David Warren, the former Ambassador to Japan and the Chairman of the Japan Society, will next introduce his predecessor in Japan, the scholar, diplomat and Japanologist, Sir Ernest Satow. Satow first went to Japan as a member of the Consular Service from 1862 to 1883 and witnesses the Meiji Restoration and the country’s early modernisation. There his language skills made him indispensible to the first British Minister Plenipotentiary, Sir Harry Parkes, on whom, as well as the Japanese Ministers to the Court of St James, Dr Andrew Cobbing of the University of Nottingham will be speaking.

It was through the vehicle of international exhibitions that the West very often learned about Japan, the first display of Japanese work being that assembled by Sir Harry Parkes for the 1862 Exhibition in London. Dr Angus Lockyer of SOAS and Dr Ayako Hotta-Lister, an independent scholar, will investigate the international exhibitions which so facilitated Japan’s exposure to the West, culminating in the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London. The consequent fashion for Japonisme which emerged in the later 19th century was very much a result of these exhibitions and Professor Tosho Watanabe of the University of the Arts, London, will consider Japonisme in Britain.

In Japan, the house and garden cannot be separated either physically or conceptually. Both Britain and Japan are island countries and quite wet ones at that. Although the garden is perceived differently in both places it very often receives the same attention. Thus the presentation on Japanese-style gardens in Britain and Ireland by Dr Jill Raggett of Writtle College should come as no surprise, although the examples of Meiji-era houses and gardens in Japan, shown by Neil Jackson of the University of Liverpool, might raise some eyebrows.

The Study Day will end with Natasha Pulley, the author of the international best-seller and award-winning novel, The Watchmaker of Filigree Street (Bloomsbury, 2015), talking about writing historical fiction set in Victorian London and Meiji Japan and, possibly, about a clockwork octopus.

Programme may be subject to change.

At the Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WC1. Doors open at 9.30am. The venue is conveniently placed for Holborn and Russell Square tube stations and numerous bus services. £65 including buffet lunch and tea/coffee. Booking required.

Event code: 1802


Later event: Lecture: Mayer Amschel Rothschild and Mentmore Towers
Earlier event: Lecture: Webb, the Wyndhams and Clouds

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