In December 1871, the Iwakura Mission was sent by the Meiji government to the US and Europe. One of the aims of the mission was the observation of foreign practices and technologies. If Japan wanted to suppress the Unequal Treaties and be considered a “first rank nation”, it had to adopt the “civilized” manners and rules of North America and Europe (Nish, 1998). Five Japanese girls, aged six to sixteen accompanied the Mission to be educated in the US for a ten-year period. Their presence didn’t go unnoticed by the American Press, and the articles reporting on their stay provided an opportunity to bring up broader themes on Japanese women and Japan.
The five girls were the first women to officially represent Japan in the US. Identified by the American media as “Japanese Princesses”, their reception was confronted with the American image and understanding of Japan. This article analyses the representations of the five girls, and of Japanese women in general, in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune during the two months that the Iwakura Mission travelled eastward from San Francisco to Washington, via Chicago. I identify and analyse the recurring tropes: the girls’ social position, the craze they created among the Americans, their beauty, the exoticism of their kimono, the education they will receive in America. The newspapers’ representation of the girls are full of inaccuracies and mistakes, myths and exoticism. Nonetheless, the representations are overwhelmingly positive and the girls – as well as the whole of the Mission’s members – are warmly welcomed by the American press.
ASHIKARI, MIKIKO (2003), The Memory of Women's White Faces: Japaneseness and the Ideal Image of Women. Japan Forum, 15, (1), pp. 55-79. https://doi.org/10.1080/0955580032000077739
AUSLIN, MICHAEL (2004), Negotiating with Imperialism: The Unequal Treaties and the Culture of Japanese Diplomacy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674020313
CHICAGO TRIBUNE. December 1871 - February 1872.
ESTÈBE, CLAUDE (2006), Les Premiers Ateliers de Photographie Japonais, 1859-1872. Etudes Photographiques, 19. Available from https://journals.openedition.org/etudesphotographiques/937 (accessed 3 December 2019).
EVENING STAR. 29 February 1872.
FURUKI, YOSHIKO - UEDA, AKIKO - ALTHAUS, MARY E. (eds) (1980), The Writings of Umeko Tsuda. Tokyo: Tsuda College.
GOLDSTEIN-GIDONI, OFRA (1999), Kimono and the Construction of Gendered and Cultural Identities. Ethnology, 38 (4), pp. 351-370. https://doi.org/10.2307/3773912
HIRAKAWA, SUKEHIRO (1989), Japan's Turn to the West. In: Jensen, Marius B. (ed.), The Cambridge History of Japan Vol. 5, pp. 432-98. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521223560.009
IMPEY, OLIVER (1984), Japanese Export Art of the Edo Period and its Influence on European Art. Modern Asian Studies, 18 (4), pp. 685-697. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X00016383
JONES, MARK (2010), Children as Treasures: Childhood and the Middle Class in Early Twentieth Century Japan. Harvard: Harvard University Asia Center. https://doi.org/10.1163/9781684175017
LEHMANN, JEAN-PIERRE (1984) Old and New Japonisme: The Tokugawa Legacy and Modern European Images of Japan. Modern Asian Studies, 18 (4), pp. 757-68. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X00016437
MCVEIGH, BRIAN (2000), Wearing Ideology: State, Schooling and Self-Presentation in Japan. Oxford; New York: Berg. https://doi.org/10.2752/9781847888976
NIMURA, JANICE P. (2015), Daughters of the Samurai - A Journey from East to West and Back. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company.
NISH, IAN (1998), The Iwakura Mission in America and Europe - A New Assessment. Richmond: Japan Library.
REYNS-CHIKUMA, CHRIS (2005), Images du japon en France et Ailleurs : Entre Japonisme et Multiculturalisme [Images of Japan in France and Beyond : Between Japonism and Multiculturalism]. Paris: L'Harmattan.
ROSE, BARBARA (1992), Tsuda Umeko and Women's Education in Japan. New Haven: Yale University Press. https://doi.org/10.12987/9780300157192
SAID, EDWARD W. (1978), Orientalism. 3rd edition. 2003. London: Penguin Books.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE. December 1871- February 1872.
SAND, JORDAN (1998), At Home in the Meiji Period: Inventing Japanese Domesticity. In: Vlastos, Steven (ed.), Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan. Berkeley: University of California Press, pp.191-207.
SHIBAHARA, TAKEO (2010), Through Americanized Japanese Woman's Eyes: Tsuda Umeko and the Women's Movement in Japan in the 1910s. Journal of Asia Pacific Studies. 1 (2), pp. 225- 234.
THOMAS, J.E. (1996), Modern Japan- A Social History since 1868. London: Longman.
SYNNOTT, ANTHONY (1990), Truth and Goodness, Mirrors and Masks Part II: A Sociology of Beauty and the Face. The British Journal of Sociology, 41 (1), pp. 55-76. https://doi.org/10.2307/591018
TUCKER, ANNE WILKES (2003), The History of Japanese Photography. New Haven: Yale University Press.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2020 Aurore Yamagata-Montoya