Much has been written about the history of Japan, but as we all know, history is not always true. To see actual history, we must look at what is painted, carved and printed as art! This means that the common people are the ones who really know what is happening in their own country and their artistic work shows it.
We can see, in the carvings of netsuke, paintings and woodblock prints, the views of foreigners that the old Japanese had. They showed the strange dress and manners of the foreign people. The government was, generally, against foreigners and any of their ideas. The common people, however, wanted the products and benefits that the new visitors could give to Japan.
The arrival in Tokyo Bay, in 1853, of an American fleet under Commodore Matthew Perry, started many changes in Japan. Much foreign technology was adopted and shortly after that visit, the Meiji Restoration began Japan’s growth into a position of world power.
In Yokohama, which was often called “The Wildwest of the Far East” due its violent nature, the foreign visitors were exciting art subjects and not considered as enemies at all. Their inventions charmed the people. The designers, carvers, printers and publishers of woodblock prints are what we can consider as the real historians of that time.
We must always look at art to show us the true sprit of a nation. That is one of the reasons that I like Japan so much. It shows me its real feelings, culture and heart through its splendid art and customs!