MIT Visualizing Cultures
Mocking the Japanese

Although Japan was formally allied with England at the time of the Russo-Japanese War (the Anglo-Japanese Alliance dated from 1902), and although English artists churned out many dramatic and “realistic” renderings of battle scenes as well as flattering postcard portraits of Japanese leaders, the English were never able to disguise an abiding perception of non-white peoples and cultures as exotic, quaint, and in good measure ridiculous. This amounted to a postcard version of the light mockery of the Japanese already popularized in the 1885 Gilbert and Sullivan operetta “The Mikado.” As this postcard run accurately reflects, it is fair to say that no country surpassed England in the production of sophomoric renderings of the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War.
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“Jappy up in the Stilts”
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“Clever Little Jap”
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“Jappy ‘Rushing’ Him Everywhere”
“Now I Have to ‘Russia’ about”
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“What the ‘Sea Saw’”
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“Catch as Catch Can”
Images from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection of
Japanese Postcards at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Yellow Promise/Yellow Peril” by John W. Dower

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology
© 2008 Visualizing Cultures