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Japanese Art: World War 2 and American Occupation.

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Japanese Art: World War II and American Occupation.

Japan is one of the most renowned destinations of artistic works of both literature and craft. Ranging from sculpture, ceramics, painting, print media and architecture, Japanese art has transcended the heights of modern expression without compromising the place of traditional legacy (Noma, 2003). Many artists embraced the concepts and ideologies of prewar and postwar experiences to express the lifestyle and achievements of Japan.

On the verge of World War II, the Japanese Arts industry faced a number of challenges including the infringement of personal rights, denial of free speech and sanctioned freedom of expression. A lot depended on the demands and directions of the military and leftist political dictators of the time. These events changed the development of arts in Japan. The worst came to pass during the actual war which left Japan in ruins. The country surrendered and the war ended but not until the signing of the Potsdam Declaration of 1945. The world of Japanese art took a new turn in a bid to capture the aftermath of the war (Munroe, 1994).

When the American occupation forces took over the islands of Japan and began the process of disbanding the militaristic state, they created hope for Japanese, especially in the arts sector. The occupiers, under direction of GHQ/SCAP Douglas MacArthur drafted the "Memorandum on the Freedom of Speech and Newspaper". This was a significant event where Japan started to restore "sanity, creativity and authenticity in communication through arts" (Burkman, 2008). However, both the war and the coming of the Occupation forces affected the history of native Japanese arts. This paper therefore, seeks to explore the changes in Japanese arts after World War II with emphasis on print media, ceramics, architecture and painting. It endeavors to elaborate on how these changes came about and their influence in transforming the industry to its modern state of affairs.

Before World War II, Japan embraced exotic cultural arts from the West, however, Japanese painting was greatly influenced by English and French ideologies that saw the incorporation of the Technological Arts School of Japan and the construction of the Tokyo Station. All these are testimony of the prewar arts (Ishizawa & Tanaka, 1986).

In addition, artists became quite enthusiastic in adopting the Italian styles and Western concepts as inspired by imported arts. Many works depicted cross cultural themes and western techniques ranging from political paradigms to religious expression. Particularly, painting and ceramic decorations were typical of mixed culture and prevailing practices. For instance, Zen temples held both imported paintings and religious ornamental sculptures. Additionally, urban areas utilized brick to express the western techniques of architecture as illustrated by the 1914 Japanese artist Kingo Tatsuno, (Paine & Coburn, 1981).

During the pre war period, most ceramic "works" were done of natural materials including stones, marble and sometimes on pieces of indigenous woodblocks. These were rough and untrimmed materials whose beauty came by default rather than planned artistry. The main idea of ceramic works of prewar periods was about reserving traditional culture and themes. Thus, ceramic art was basically simple and natural as depicted on the Katsura Detached Palace (Wada, 2003).

On the side of painting, traditional Japanese arts deployed extensive use of monochromatic themes. Many were painted on simple surfaces like walls, wood and silk. However, the introduction of Western styles and French perspectives in the Arts influenced local artists to adopt multicolored painting works. As such, Japanese painting transformed to the usage of a wide range of expressive bright colours. Even the single coloured art portrayed varied tones and intensity to communicate reality of the day especially in public settings and modern events (Mayo et al, 2001). It is such principles of painting that Japanese artists are known for their brush work.

Additionally prewar paintings explored prevailing social and political events. Traditional gender roles were structured and described through paintings of theatrical scenes. Despite the fame of such arts, women were purportedly viewed as immoral in theater performances. As a result they were banned by the Tokugawa administration from participating in performing arts (Franco & Verne, 1997). This was one of the many factors to be considered during the occupation period. Nonetheless, painters expressed these facts of gender disparities and racial conflicts quite well in their works.

In terms of print media, there are few artistic examples expressing advanced academia and professionalism in the prewar era (i.e., merchants as subject matter). Most works highlight the time before World War II and much depended on daily events. Artists focused on theater scenes, landscape, and Japanese history. There are no examples (to my knowledge) of material that dealt with politics or human rights in the ancient print media. For instance the most famous Japanese prints of that time were the Ukiyo-e, or "floating world", which concentrated on simple scenes and daily observations (Ishizawa & Tanaka, 1986).

Political coverage came with the creation of two new schools of thought. These comprised the "Shin Hanga" or "new prints" school and the "Sosaku Hanga" "creative prints" school, both of whom acknowledged publishers as a focus in the printing process. While Sosaku believed in the artist as the central player in printing, Shin proposed that the publisher is more central, this allowed for multiple artists to offer ideas toward the final product. Japanese print media, from this point on, begins to report current issues from different perspectives. Many political issues ware expressed traditionally by use of symbols and cartoons. Caricatures formed the mainstream media based communication where artists expressed political injustices and social conflicts in the form of cartoons and graphics as noted by Noma (2003).

Two major groups within the industry grew into proactive media productions. The Tokyo ƌshimbun and the Asahi shimbun were known politically affiliated newspapers of that era. Either way, these papers provoked the military led Japanese government which resulted in relentless suppression and control. De Lange (1998) argues that most print media of this period were concerned with political reports, advocacy for human rights, freedom and constitutional democracy.

In the same light, changes began to take root towards wartime when the Japanese military invaded traditional media groups and secured control of their reports. This is where the Japanese



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