Episode 89 – A Day in the Life of Meiji Japan

This week we’ll be going through the basics of daily life for children, women, and men during the Meiji Period. How did the tremendous changes of the Meiji Era change the way people lived and worked? This week, we’ll try to sketch an outline of an answer for that question, as we cover themes as varied as compulsory educations and fistfights over the rights of prostitutes

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Crawcour, E. Sydney. “Economic Change in the Nineteenth Century”, in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 5.

Garon, Sheldon. Molding Japanese Minds: State and Society in Japan.

Smith, Thomas C. Native Sources of Japanese Industrialization.

A copy of the Imperial Rescript on Education can be found in English here and in Japanese here (Wikisource has both the original and a gendaigo version if you cannot read classical Japanese).

Images 

A street scene in Yokohama, c. 1880.
A street scene in Yokohama, c. 1880.
An elementary school class in Kudoyama City in Wakayama Prefecture during the Meiji Era. Courtesy of Wakayama Prefecture.
An elementary school class in Kudoyama City in Wakayama Prefecture during the Meiji Era. Courtesy of Wakayama Prefecture.
The Imperial Rescript on Education, the guiding document of Imperial-era education. It was to be memorized and treated with reverence by students, though some simply used it as an excuse for competitive games of memorization. Courtesy of Meiji Shrine.
The Imperial Rescript on Education, the guiding document of Imperial-era education. It was to be memorized and treated with reverence by students, though some simply used it as an excuse for competitive games of memorization. Courtesy of Meiji Shrine.
Tsuda Umeko, who participated in the Iwakura Mission and founded Japan's first women's college (now Tsuda University).
Tsuda Umeko, who participated in the Iwakura Mission and founded Japan’s first women’s college (now Tsuda University).
Factories like this one would have extremely harsh working conditions, with some running shifts as long as 14 hours a day. Women dominated textile plants like this one, providing around 3/4ths of the workforce. Courtesy of Kyoto Prefecture.
Factories like this one would have extremely harsh working conditions, with some running shifts as long as 14 hours a day. Women dominated textile plants like this one, providing around 3/4ths of the workforce. Courtesy of Kyoto Prefecture.
Harimise, the practice of displaying prostitutes for potential customers, was eventually outlawed -- ostensibly because it encouraged a practice which was merely supposed to be tolerated, but in practice because the optics of the whole thing were (rightly) pretty awful.
Harimise, the practice of displaying prostitutes for potential customers, was eventually outlawed — ostensibly because it encouraged a practice which was merely supposed to be tolerated, but in practice because the optics of the whole thing were (rightly) pretty awful.
This image of a Meiji Period movie theater gives you some idea how one would be laid out. A pit orchestra sits below the scene; the benshi, or narrator, is to the left. Courtesy of Matsuda Film.
This image of a Meiji Period movie theater gives you some idea how one would be laid out. A pit orchestra sits below the scene; the benshi, or narrator, is to the left. Courtesy of Matsuda Film.
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