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Cultural colonialism in Japanese Expositions


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Other Title
  • 博覧会の舞踊にみる近代日本の植民地主義
  • ハクランカイ ノ ブヨウ ニ ミル キンダイ ニホン ノ ショクミンチ シュギ リュウキュウ タイワン ニ ショウテン オ アテテ
  • Influences on the Okinawan and Taiwanese dances
  • 琉球・台湾に焦点をあてて

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In this paper, I examine how the dances in modern Expositions can be analyzed from a perspective of colonialism. I will focus on two specific examples of Ryukyu-teodori and Takasagozoku-buyo. By doing so, I make the relationship between Japanese colonialism and performing arts clear.<br>The modern era has been known as “the era of Expositions”. In 1851, the first World Exposition was held in London, and then expositions took place continuously in larger Western cities such as Paris and Vienna in Europe, Philadelphia and Chicago in the United States. Each country competed to set up colonial pavilions in Expositions. To place colonial things on exhibition was to show the nations' capability for foreign influence. Therefore, the expositions might be the best opportunity for effective propaganda in presenting a country's growing national power to the global community.<br>The representation of colonies has its roots in earlier ages. From the 18th to the 19th centuries, Western powers have made wide inroads into non-Western countries. At that time, the study of natural history was prevalent in Europe, and European scholars were strongly interested in the people of non-Western cultures. And the same features also appeared in Japanese modern expositions, since both Japan and Western countries shared the same characteristics as settlers, despite the geopolitical differences.<br>In 1900, the 5th National Industrial Exhibition was held in Osaka. The Academic Anthropic Pavilion (Gakujyutsu jinrui-kan) exhibited examples of colonial populations gathered from Okinawa, Hokkaido, and Taiwan, as a kind of “freak show”. This action caused a huge uproar in some regions, because people in those areas thought that it was degrading to have shown some region-specific (in other words, “abnormal”) folklores to the colonizing culture which decided the standard of “normal” during the era of colonial rule. This idea was especially strong in Okinawa, and the fact that several women of Okinawa gave a public performance of the traditional dance (Ryukyu-teodori) in this pavilion came under severe criticism in the Okinawan media, particularly among intellectuals. Such arguments are clearly related to Japanese Okinawan policies based on the idea of assimilation, which requires Okinawa to become a part of Japanese culture, even while severe discrimination remained. The people in Okinawa were educating themselves as “Japanese citizens” in these days. The colonists forced the people in Okinawa to make an effort to become “Japanese” like the immigrant settlers. In spite of this, people from Okinawa were exhibited in a showcase with Ainu or Taiwanese, who were retarded as “inferior breeds” by them.<br>However, another performance by Okinawan people was widely and favorably accepted, though it was at the same Exposition and was the same kind of traditional dance as was displayed at the Academic Anthropic Pavilion. That was the dance revue by “beautiful Okinawan women” (Ryukyu-bijin teodori-kai). This shows that not content, but context of performance is at stake. It is interesting from the perspective of colonialism and gendered body, since there were accusations that the women who appeared in the Academic Anthropic Pavilion were “prostitutes”, while women who performed in the Okinawan dance revue were praised as “actresses”.<br>Meanwhile, there was a completely different phenomenon in Taiwan, another colony of Japan. The Takasago, a Taiwanese indigenous tribe who performed at the Taiwanese Exposition in 1935 responded in another way. The colonizers viewed the traditional performance like Takasago-dance as a peculiar but interesting entertainment in this Exposition. Yet, even though they were treated as a “freak show”, the Takasago performers who appeared on the stage h



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