After nearly two centuries of restricted foreign contact, Japan was increasingly exposed to Western culture in the 1850s as new trade agreements prompted cross-cultural interaction. The influx of unfamiliar technology and customs incited anxiety as well as awe among the Japanese populace, and their strong curiosity is evident in the detailed depictions of foreign subjects by ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) artists. This print, published in 1861, from the series Bankoku jinbutsu no uchi (People of the various nations), is by Utagawa Yoshitora (flourished 1850–70), one of the foremost pupils of the popular ukiyo-e artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798–1861). The figures illustrated on the right-hand side are the Russians, while those on the left are the French. The focus seems to be on their fashion and clothing styles.
Place: East Asia; Japan
Institution: Library of Congress
Physical description: 1 print on hōsho paper : woodcut, color ; 33.5 x 21.0 centimeters (block), 37.5 x 25.5 centimeters (sheet)