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The Barbarians Arrive: Japanese Depictions of Westerners (1860s)

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In the 1850s U.S. Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed his ships in Japan and set about ending the Tokugawa shogunate’s two hundred years of self-imposed seclusion. Japanese ports opened up to England, France, Russia, Holland, and the United States.

But Japan was no melting pot. Westerners were corralled, unable to roam freely and kept apart from the Japanese.

The Japanese were curious as to what the Westerners looked like. So artists drew them in Yokohama-e (Yokohama pictures) often using borrowed imagery from secondary sources, such as wood engravings found in Western journals and newspapers.

 

The English

The English

 

Woodblock print by Utagawa Yoshitora of a Frenchman with a geisha, 1861

Woodblock print by Utagawa Yoshitora of a Frenchman with a geisha, 1861

True View of a Yokohama Mercantile House (Yokohama shokan shinzu), 1861

True View of a Yokohama Mercantile House (Yokohama shokan shinzu), 1861

 

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Banquet of five nations (Yokohama club). Artist Yoshikazu Utagawa (1848-1863) Colour woodcut. Japanese diptych print shows a large group of people seated at a long table during a banquet at the Yokohama Club, 1861. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Banquet of five nations (Yokohama club). Artist Yoshikazu Utagawa (1848-1863) Colour woodcut. Japanese diptych print shows a large group of people seated at a long table during a banquet at the Yokohama Club, 1861.

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UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: British merchant at banquet in a foreign trading house in Yokohama, Japan, being waited on by a Chinese man, Thai chef in the background, 1861. Trade Commerce International Japanese (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

British merchant at banquet in a foreign trading house in Yokohama, Japan, being waited on by a Chinese man, Thai chef in the background, 1861.

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Sketch of a Copperplate Print of the City of Washington (Amerika shu no uchi washintonfu no kei doban no utsushi), 1861

Sketch of a Copperplate Print of the City of Washington (Amerika shu no uchi washintonfu no kei doban no utsushi), 1861

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A View of Yokohama Harbor (Koki Yokohama ichiran), 1860

A View of Yokohama Harbor (Koki Yokohama ichiran), 1860

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Arrival and Departure of an American Steamship (Amerikakoku jokisha orai), 1861

Arrival and Departure of an American Steamship (Amerikakoku jokisha orai), 1861

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Via: Art Institute of Chicago, Library of Congress