Barry Till

Modernization in Meiji Japan 1868-1912

Episode 39 :  Barry Till, a curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (Canada), gives Brooke a history lesson on the Meiji (pronounced MAY-gee) period in Japan. During this tumultuous forty-five year span the island nation was transformed from a nineteenth-century insular feudal society into a twentieth-century global industrial and military power.
The Art Gallery is home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Japanese art in Canada. It is currently hosting Modernization in Meiji Japan (1868-1912) Changing Images of Architecture, Transportation and War. The exhibition features contemporaneous wood block prints which illustrate Japanese life during this period. The prints not only serve as works of accessible popular art, but also provide historical insight into those fascinating and influential times. The exhibition will continue until August 28, 2016.

the tsukiji hotel

The Tsukiji Hotel, the First Western Style Hotel Built in Tokyo, and the Paddle Steamer City of Edo, 1870 | Original Hiroshige III (1843 – 1894) | Japanese Woodblock Print – See more at:

Meiji woodblock prints are fascinating in that they reveal to us a country in total transition. During the short period of Emperor Meiji’s reign (1868-1912) of nearly 45 years, Japan made an astonishingly swift metamorphosis from a feudal state into a modern industrial nation and major military power. Meiji Japan was recognized as the great nation-building “success story” of the modern non-Western world. What had taken the Western powers centuries to accomplish, Japan achieved in a few short decades. The prints of the period clearly show how Japan enthusiastically threw itself into changing and modernizing the nation by adopting just about anything Western.  It was truly amazing how every facet of life in Japan would experience an intense social and economic upheaval.  This exhibition will focus on three main aspects of their modernization: architecture, transportation and wars. The Gallery has one of the largest and finest collections of Meiji prints in North America.

Featured Image (at top of page):  City Scene with Horse-drawn Streetcars | Original Meiji era Japanese Woodblock Print

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