Nobles in European Fashions by Chikanobu Toyohara (1899)
Composed of Emperor Meiji, the Empress and their retinue, this party is on a walk along the Sumida river, admiring cherry blossoms. Ladies wear sumptuous Victorian dresses and hats while the emperor sports his usual military attire. From the 1870s, the imperial government engaged Japan on a path of modernisation, including in matters of clothing. The imperial couple decided to show the example, wearing Western dress on oficial occasions. Print artists and publishers were comissioned to portray them enjoying life at the palace or attending offical events dressed in Western clothes. While the Japanese elite followed their example, the great majority of people, however, continued to wear traditional Japanese dress, specially women.
The above triptych is a perfect example of how the image of the Emperor Meiji and his family was used to shape the modernity of Japan in many ways, to the extent of the clothes they wore and how the Japanese people should follow suit to also take part in the modernisation of the country.