Japanese Fascination with the West is Explored in Exhibition of 19th-Century Yokohama Prints


PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Isolated by the ruling Tokugawa shogunate from the outside world, Japanese citizens were naturally curious about the Westerners who began to arrive on their shores following Commodore Matthew Perry’s historic voyages to Japan in 1853–1854. This growing fascination led to the flourishing of hundreds of color woodcuts portraying the foreigners who arrived after Japan opened its borders to trade with the United States, France, Britain, the Netherlands and Russia at the end of the 1850s. The exhibition of 98 woodcuts, selected from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s extensive collection of 19th-century Japanese prints, showcases the rising interest in the dress, habits, and technologies of Westerners. The prints feature the coal-powered vessels, known as “Black Ships,” of the trade nations, ladies in fancy hoop skirts and gentlemen in top hats, unusual household furnishings, and imaginar