The Meiji emperor and empress served as examples to promote the new policy of westernization. When the emperor cut off his traditional top-knot, it set off a revolution in men’s hair fashion, and once the empress was seen dressed in western fashion wealthy ladies raced to outdo each other with current trends in dresses and shoes. By 1872 western attire was required for all court functions.

Despite constant correction, the emperor never learned to ride his horse sitting upright but always slumped forward like a warlord. The empress, however, was a beautiful figurehead for all things western.

Guests would arrive at social clubs and balls teetering on their new shoes, attempting to control their voluminous dresses and greeting each other with the new custom of shaking hands. Guests might be served such exotic food as beef, bread, and beer. Some Japanese learned to play piano or violin and studied European musical composition – completely different from traditional Japanese music.

Art Gallery of Greater Victoria
1868 - 1912
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