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Banknote design as a battlefield of gender politics and national representation in Meiji Japan

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Chapter Summary

This chapter focuses on the Japanese government's efforts to visualize the mythical Empress Jingū as a representation of the new nation-state in the 1870s and 1880s. It employs an ethnological methodology that incorporates a cross-section of elite and popular cultural products for public consumption, most notably the design of banknotes. The chapter first summarizes the main plot of the Jingū narrative and briefly reviews the transmission of the text and the reception of Jingū imagery. An analysis of the texts and images immediately preceding the Jingū portraits in the 1870s and 1880s allows us to test the reception of Jingū during the early Meiji era. In February 1875 Tsuboi Senjirō cited Jingū as a precedent in arguing for the equal rights of women. The 1878 bonds show her as an independent, allegorical guardian deity of modernizing Japan, surveying the technological progress of a thriving young nation-state.

Keywords: design of banknotes; early Meiji era; Jingū; modernizing Japan; rights of women



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