MIT Visualizing Cultures

Throwing Off Asia – Lesson 08

The Birthday of the “New” Japan

Handout 08-B

The Birthday of the “New” Japan

In 1896, the year after the Sino-Japanese War, a distinguished Western observer of Japan, Lafcadio Hearn, wrote the following:
“The real birthday of the new Japan … began with the conquest of China. The war is ended; the future, though clouded, seems big with promise; and, however grim the obstacles to loftier and more enduring achievements, Japan has neither fears nor doubts.

Perhaps the future danger is just in this immense self-confidence.”
                                                       —Lafcadio Hearn, Kokoro, 1896*
Examine the woodblock prints available to you in Throwing Off Asia. Select one woodblock print that you think best illustrates the message in Lafcadio Hearn’s quote about the birth of a new Japan. 
Through a written essay or a poster with text boxes, explain how this image captures:

A: The transformation of Japan at the end of the Sino-Japanese War.

B: Possibilities for Japan’s future as it headed into the 20th century.

*Quoted from Hearn’s book Kokoro by Shumpei Okamoto in Impressions of the Front: Woodcuts of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-95 (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1983)


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