Hamlet and the Bicycle

Ian Buruma

  • The World of the Meiji Print: Impressions of a New Civilisation by Julia Meech-Pekarik
    Weatherhill, 259 pp, £27.50, October 1987, ISBN 0 8348 0209 0

The Meiji period: 44 years (1868-1912) of ‘Civilisation and Enlightenment’, of steam-trains, long-nosed barbarians, crystal chandeliers, fancy-dress balls and wars fought in Hungarian cavalry uniforms. There is something highly theatrical about the ‘modernisation’ of Japan, which began with a dazzling (words like ‘dazzling’ always come to mind when discussing Meiji) crash-course in Western culture and ended in a defensive re-evaluation of traditions that would never be the same again.

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