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Exhibiting Ueno: Spaces of Enlightenment in Modern Tokyo
Organizer: Alice Y. Tseng, Boston University
Chair: Jeffrey E. Hanes, University of Oregon
Discussant: Jonathan M. Reynolds, University of Southern California
This panel will explore the emergence of new kinds of public space in modern Japan, by exploring the various kinds of exhibition that were staged in Ueno Park during the Meiji Period. As much as Ueno was a known place and display was popular practice before 1868, the hakurankai (exposition), hakubutsukan (museum), and d˘butsuen (zoo) were distinguished by new terminology, organizational principles, and agendas. From its opening as a public park in 1873, the spacious grounds of Ueno had stimulated a number of grand government plans, including an early proposal to accommodate a permanent museum, art school, zoological park, botanical garden, and temporary expositions. While there were competing bids, equally ambitious, the underlying consensus was that educating the minds and eyes of the general populace should be a main objective of Ueno’s development. Ueno was consistently marked by the imposing presence of the central government and the practice of display—artistic, scientific, industrial, animal, and vegetal. No coherent masterplan was ever implemented, however, and official plans of enlightenment repeatedly had to share space with other interests and agendas. Like the exhibits that both enlightened and entertained, Ueno as a space worked to mediate a variety of oppositions--between official and populace, empire and colony, city and countryside, human and animal, and permanence and transience. The aim of this panel is to understand this process and thereby to stimulate discussion about both the practice of exhibition at Ueno and the modernity of which it was a microcosm. The three papers will provide brief, 15-minute sketches of the former, while the two discussants will link these to broader questions about the production of modern urban space, nation-state, and empire.
Industrial Exhibitions in Ueno Park: Differentiated Development, 1877–1907
Angus Lockyer, School of Oriental and African Studies, United Kingdom
In 1877, the first of what eventually became five national industrial exhibitions was staged in Ueno as the centrepiece of Okubo Toshimichi’s grand plans for "training the eyes" of Japanese producers, improving the quality of their craftsmanship, and thereby increasing production and promoting industry. Following the second in 1881 and the third in 1890, and despite its best efforts, Tokyo lost the fourth to Kyoto and the fifth to Osaka. The city had been promised the sixth, and there were even proposals that this should become Japan’s first international exhibition, but official enthusiasm ebbed and plans were put on hold. It was therefore the municipal authorities that took the initiative in staging the Tokyo Industrial Exhibition in 1907, paving the way for a variety of subsequent private initiatives. The event had come a long way in forty years. From the original enclosure surrounding what had become the Imperial Household Museum, exhibits now sprawled down the hill to a second site around Shinobazu pond, illuminated spectacularly at night and bordered by a series of competing attractions, not the least of which was an architecturally distinctive Taiwanese pavilion. In this presentation, I will suggest that exhibitions individually and their evolution over time were governed rather by practices of accommodation, concession, and distraction than the didactic visions of their instigators. Like the park they occupied, exhibitions succeeded to the extent that they were able to attract diverse investments and reconcile the multiple interests of modern city, region, nation, and empire. This did not necessarily place them at odds with the state: development, broadly conceived, remained central to their mandate. It does suggest, however, both the limits of official authority in determining the form that development took and the extent to which both exhibition and Ueno itself were therefore products and witness of an increasingly differentiated modernity.
Civilized by Nature: Making Man and Beast at the Ueno Zoological Gardens
Ian Miller, Arizona State University
Tokyo’s Ueno Museum Zoological Garden, renamed the Imperial Zoological Garden in 1889, was one part of a state-led effort to alter Japanese relations with the natural world in the 19th century. As a new kind of didactic media, the zoo sought to make play productive, recasting animals as "useful" objects and Japanese—together with Westerners—as "civilized" masters of a new natural history based on Linnaean nomenclature and Enlightenment ideology. This talk focuses on the Ueno Zoo’s institutional and cultural emergence, looking at some of the ways in which the zoological garden produced knowledge and arguing that the institution was a microcosm of modern Japanese relations with (and uses of) the natural world. I submit that the new understandings of humanity and animality on display in the Japanese zoo’s cages and enclosures developed, in part, as a response to that country’s encounter with the imperialist West, where notions of the animal and the savage shaped broader imperialist practice and policy. The Japanese zoo, in other words, may have functioned as an institutionalized form of anti-colonial resistance.
What’s in a Name? What’s in a Space? The Hakubutsukan and Bijutsukan of Ueno
Alice Y. Tseng, Boston University
Tokyo’s Ueno Park today is synonymous with museums, being host to six separate institutions, each featuring a distinct set of buildings and objects. Four of the six museums focus exclusively on the exhibition of art, and three of these four clearly indicate this focus with the word bijutsukan (art museum) in their names. The Tokyo National Museum (Tokyo Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan) stands as the exception, retaining the all-encompassing term hakubutsukan (museum) as an emblem of its original identity as the museum of the nation. This paper examines a decisive moment in the history of the Tokyo National Museum, the first decade of the twentieth century, when modern Japan’s first permanent bijutsukan, the Hy˘keikan, was placed under its administration. The emplacement of a bijutsukan within a hakubutsukan signaled at once autonomy and dependency, calling attention to them as distinct but intertwined entities. In step with recent scholarly attention to the Meiji-period invention and definition of the Japanese term bijutsu (art), this paper focuses on the earliest state efforts at defining a bijutsukan, a customized space for art, in the shadow of the existing hakubutsukan structure. It also highlights the primary role that the Ueno Park played in complicating the raising of the Hy˘keikan; the existence of many other competing voices such as practicing artists, art historians, and art critics who regularly convened in Ueno brought about a cacophony of opinions on how best to enforce a permanent place for art.