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A study on Japanese Mingei’s birth in Taisho era and alienation in Showa era

Wu Yeyan

vol. XII(1)

Pages 54-75


Abstract: Yanagi Sōetsu put forward the word "Mingei (Folk Craft)" in 1925 and

jointly published the "Purport Book on the Establishment of Japan Mingei Museum"

with Tomimoto Kenkichi, Kawai Kanjiro, and Hamada Shoji the following year, so as

to launch Japan’s "Mingei movement". Some scholars have noticed that during World

War II, Mingei was related to "life culture" with fascist ideology, and there was a

historical phenomenon that Mingei served politics. This paper attempts to interpret

the first-hand texts of Yanagi Sōetsu, Kunio Kishida, and Kiyoshi Miki, discuss how

Mingei with a "healthy" original intention came into being, and how it gradually

became a tool for Japanese fascist aggression and expansion. Mingei originated in the

period of "Taisho Democracy," with a strong left-wing flavor in Japanese history. It

contains a beautiful vision of making society "healthy". It has gained influence with

the support of elites, and the Mingei movement has progressed well in rural and urban

society. Later, Mingei gradually attracted the attention of the Showa fascist

government and was absorbed by the concept of "life culture" advocated by the new

system in 1940, which was alienated and became a tool for the mobilization of the

Japanese fascist war.

Keywords: Yanagi Sōetsu, Mingei, Japanese folk craft, colonialism, imperialism,

fascism.

Wu Yeyan
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