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Today let's take a look at the incredibly important Taishō period, from which we can trace the roots of present-day Japanese society.
The Taishō Period is the era between 1912 and 1926, when Emperor Yoshihito reigned. After Emperor Yoshihito passed away, he became known as Emperor Taishō. This period in history may have been short, but within these fourteen years many important events occurred, such as Japan entering the First World War and the Great Kantō Earthquake in 1923, after which over 100,000 people were declared dead or missing.
It's also the era of the Taishō Democracy, during which the ideologies of liberalism and democracy spread, and Japan's government and society started to make big moves towards the modern day.
From: Just Like Mom's - Onden, Harajuku's Classic Curry Restaurant
The Taishō Period formed the roots of the Japanese lifestyle today. For example, it was during this period that three of Japan's favorite Western-style foods - namely curry rice, croquettes, and tonkatsu - began to appear on the Japanese dinner table.
On the outskirts of big cities, houses which blended Japanese and Western elements known as "cultural residences" were built en masse. These had Japanese-style entrances leading to Western-style reception rooms, and interiors complete with gas and water connections, kitchens and bathrooms.
Furthermore, with education becoming more widespread, it became the norm for the everyday man to be hired in the private sector after graduating university, leading to widespread urbanization.
In the Taishō Period, women's social standing began to improve. Influenced by the European art style Romanticism, a unique cultural trend called Taishō roman("Taishō Romanticism") formed, putting emphasis on freedom of expression and individuality.
Perhaps the most famous example of Taishō Romanticism is the painter Takehisa Yumejialso known as Taishō's ukiyo-e master. The beautiful women in his paintings have a characteristic sophisticated look of ennui on their faces, and wear modern style Japanese clothing loosely draped about their lithe bodies. Even in present-day Japan there are many young women who are inspired by Yumeji's beautiful women, and antique, Taishō-style patterned kimono are popular.
Yumeji also worked just like a graphic designer from our times, as he designed everyday goods, such as letter writing sets and hand towels, as well as public advertisements. If you want to get up and personal with Yumeji's designs, check out the Yumeji Art Museum (Okayama), Takehisa Yumeji Ikaho Memorial (Shibukawa, Gunma; link in Japanese), or Takehisa Yumeji Museum (Tokyo; link has limited English).