Re-imagining the empire of Japan through Japanese schoolboy uniforms

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King, EL & Rall, DN 2015, 'Re-imagining the empire of Japan through Japanese schoolboy uniforms', M/C Journal, vol. 18, no. 6.

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This commentary is facilitated by—surprisingly resilient—oriental stereotypes of an imagined Japan (think of First Name Wilde’s assertion, in 1889, that Japan was a European invention). During the Victorian era, in Britain, there was a craze for all things oriental, particularly ceramics and “there was a craze for all things Japanese and no middle class drawing room was without its Japanese fan or teapot.“ (V&A Victorian). These pastoral depictions of the ‘oriental life’ included the figures of men and women in oriental garb, with fans, stilt shoes, kimono-like robes, and appropriate headdresses, engaging in garden-based activities, especially tea ceremony variations (Landow). In fact, tea itself, and the idea of a ceremony of serving it, had taken up a central role, even an obsession in middle- and upper-class Victorian life. Similarly, landscapes with wild seas, rugged rocks and stunted pines, wizened monks, pagodas and temples, and particular fauna and flora (cranes and other birds flying through clouds of peonies, cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums) were very popular motifs (see Martin and Koda). Rather than authenticity, these designs heightened the Western-based romantic stereotypes associated with a stylised form of Japanese life, conducted sedately under rule of the Japanese Imperial Court.

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