Japan Summer Blog 2012
Yesterday a group of us ventured to Yokohama in the morning, and then came back to Tokyo in the late afternoon to spend some time at the Edo-Tokyo Museum. In Yokohama, Dr. Munson gave us a guided tour of the city and the Yokohama Archives of History. He lived in Yokohama when he was working on his dissertation, and he spent many hours combing through the materials in the archives. His forthcoming book, The Periodical Press in Treaty-Port Japan, is about Yokohama's establishment and subsequent development as viewed through the popular press of the time. Yokohama was a planned city, established by Westerns in the mid 1800s as a seaport for the newly opened Japan. As Dr. Munson noted, it is "ground zero" for understanding the history of Japan's relationship with the West.
Continuing on the theme of history, we visited later that day the Edo-Tokyo Museum, which is an enormous facility in Tokyo. The museum is focused on history of how Edo-Tokyo was founded and developed. It has many interesting exhibits, including scale models of many parts of the city, which depict what daily life would have been for the average person. For me the highlight came in the room which dealt with the early 1900s and particularly the thriving theater culture of Asakusa. One of the exhibits was a large, detailed model of a popular movie theater in Asakusa in 1914. The description of the display noted that it was based on a photograph from 1914. As I looked more closely, I suddenly realized that the film being shown on that particular day was Antony and Cleopatra! For me this was a starling discovery, because this is the film that I have done extensive work about its original music. Although it was popular in 1914, the film quickly fell into obscurity and few people know it today. I had done extensive digging in American archives to learn about the film, but this exhibit tells me that there are sources about the film in Japan. Even this exhibit alone was a find because it included numerous still images and posters from the film, and several I had never seen before. It was an exciting moment. I have yet another reason to return to Japan.
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