Japanese Fashion Designs - Part X


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June 10, 2010

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After 1853, with the arrival of US Navy and his 'black ships' who came demanding trade and were soon followed by other westerners, everything began to change in Japan. Renewed contact with the West precipitated profound alteration of Japanese society. By example, they started using new chemical dyeing techniques, as well as large-scale industry methods introduced from the West. Between the years 1857 and 1862 students, sailors, army officers and common soldiers began to use Western uniforms, clothes fashion.

Mutsuhito, who was fifteen-years old, succeeded his father on February 3, 1867. This was the beginning of a new era, for Japan, the Meiji (enlightened rule) period was proclaimed. After two-and-a-half centuries of isolation, in the Meiji Restoration of 1868, the Tokugawa shogunate was replaced by a constitutional monarchy and Japan was reopened to the world. The Imperial court was moved from Kyoto to Edo, which was renamed Tokyo, (Eastern Capital).

The emperor set out to create an industrialized, modern and prosperous country in a fraction of the time it had taken those of the West. Traditional styles fashions were often abandoned and Western ones hurriedly adopted. In 1868 the sewing machine was introduced, this tool helped speed the production of Western-style clothing fashion designs.

In order to stabilize the new government, the former feudal lords (daimyo) had to return all their lands to the emperor. This was achieved already in 1870 and followed by the restructuring of the country in prefectures. The days of feudalism were over and the new centralized government was left in the hands of those in favor of westernization. In 1871 the ordinary people were granted permission to wear this type of clothing fashions. In spite of this the majority of the people continued to wear traditional Japanese clothing fashion designs.

The military and industrial bases were considerably strengthened. Universal conscription was introduced, the education system was reformed and the introduction of compulsory education began. In order to transform the agrarian economy of Tokugawa Japan into a developed industrial one, many Japanese scholars were sent abroad to study Western science and languages, while foreign experts taught in Japan. They successfully renegotiated treaties with the West. A new constitution was adopted in 1889. During this time, Japan began its modernization.

Successful campaigns in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-5) and Russo-Japanese War (1904-5) and the annexation of Korea (1910) certainly made Japan the major force in the region at the beginning of the 20th century, and rose to world power status

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