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Staging Japanese Men

by Alexis Rose

"Men Eating" by Felice Beato. Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In Men Eating, the people are not in a formal situation. Three of the men are wearing happi or a cotton robe-like vest. This could symbolize that the three men are all working together for the same festival performance or to show that they are workers in the same place. The man wearing the long kimono has a rope around his waist and something resembling a sheath can be seen coming from him. The sitting man is the only one wearing pants. They seem like a mixed group of people, yet they all have the same hachimaki, a Japanese headband, in common. Generally, the hachimaki are made having a similar motif to the happi they will be worn with. Men Eating was taken by Felice Beato, an Italian-British photographer who mainly took photographs of East Asia. Men Eating was made during a time when “orientalist” ways of portraying and patronizing Japan was popular in Europe and the United States. This albumen print was originally in black and white and was later tinted, presumably also by Beato. The overall main colors are the blue from their clothes and the brown from the ground, basket and other background items, although they are slightly faded. Most of the objects seem to be in proximity to the man serving the food for convenience. Only one person has food, one person has a teacup and another one is reaching for one. Compared to the other food related objects, only the teapot is oddly out of reach from the man wearing pants.


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