The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

"Modernologio" Now: Kon wajiro's science of the Present

Modernologio Now: Kon wajiro's science of the Present
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Theme I: Kon Wajiro Retrospective
Section 1.
Rural Surveys and Research on Minka
Kon Wajiro, 1917, Peasant's house at a mountainous village in heavy snow (Sekikawa-mura, Naka-kubiki District, Niigata Prefecture). Owned by Kogakuin University Library.
After graduating from university, Kon became a research assistant in the Department of Architecture, Waseda University. Architecture professor Sato Koichi introduced him to the Hakuboukai (White Grass Roof Society), a research group founded by Yanagita Kunio, Ministry of Agriculture official Ishiguro Tadaatsu and others. As a member of the group, he participated in research in Manchuria and the Korean Peninsula as well as in various places throughout Japan. In his Kenbun-yacho (Observational field notes) he drew detailed sketches of minka (traditional Japanese houses), their furnishings, and their natural surroundings, to which he attached poetic captions. In these sketches we glimpse the warmth of his gaze and his awareness of issues confronting the people whose lives he studied.  These sketches later became the basis of his classic book, Minka of Japan.
Section 2.
The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923: The Destruction and Rebirth of a City, and the Birth of Modernologio(Modernology)
KonWajiro, 1925. Index of the Report of Ginza Fashion Survey.Owned by Kogakuin University Library.
Following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, his focus shifted from the country to the city.  While recording in meticulous detail the lives of people living in the emergency housing constructed of whatever materials could be recovered from the rubble, Kon discovered the energy of the earthquake’s survivors. We catch a glimpse of this energy in the Barrack Decoration Movement’s efforts to decorate the temporary shops and other emergency structures (known as “barracks”) that Kon and his friends initiated. It was from his records of how life changed through these activities that Modernologio, with its exploration of how life is lived now and in the future, was launched.
Section 3.
Architect and Designer
Kon Wajiro, 1934. Arm chair and armless chair designed for Watanabe Jinkichi residence. Owned by the School of Creative Science and Engineering, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Waseda University.
The importance of decoration in the architectural designs that shape the spatial aspects of human lives, which Kon had pointed out during his involvement with the Barrack Decoration Movement, became an integral part of his later thinking. We can see his answers to issues confronted by rural areas in the midst of modernization in his work related to the recovery from the Great Kanto Earthquake, his involvement in the Tohoku Settlement Movement, which aimed to improve and revive rural villages in Tohoku, the Ogoe-mura Theater, and the Akita Prefectural Seinen Shuren-Nojou (Youth Training Farm). Here we see work that combines standardized plans for rational and efficient architectural proposals with his lifelong involvement in attempts to improve the lives of people in rural villages. In his plans for his own and other private residences, we can again see the humanity that emerged from his pondering the things with which people surround themselves.
Section 4.
Education, and the Aims of Kon's Drawings
Kon Wajiro, 1940. “Patriarch” from “Vow for a New Age--Hold Your Own Maginot Line”. Owned by Kogakuin University Library.
Besides lecturing at the Department of Architecture, Waseda University for nearly sixty years, Kon also taught at many other universities. Besides architecture and interior design, he also lectured on household economy and lifestyle research. Before World War II, he was an advocate for improvements in rural village housing and a scientific approach to improving rural ways of life.  During the postwar democratization movement, he spoke about the need for comprehensive improvements from a modernist perspective that placed great weight on culture. Kon’s extraordinary drawings played a critical role in making his ideas easy to understand. The research into costume that began with his involvement as a student in stage design and theatrical costume design based on historical research on Western costumes, gave birth to the skills displayed in his sketches and prints of Western-style apparel and the clothing worn by Japan’s farmers.
Theme II: Clothing, Fashion, and Signs of the Times, Past and Present
Section 1. Okamoto Shin’ya and Okamoto Yasuko, Observations of Ultraordinary Life
Underwear seen at a public bath (tapestry by Okamoto Shin’ya and Okamoto Yasuko).
Modernological research conducted by Okamoto Shin’ya and Okamoto Yasuko are introduced through tapestry and other research media.
The simple questioning and curiosity with which Modernologia research begins makes it a type of research in which everyone can become involved.
Section 2. The Tanaka Chiyo Collection and the History of Western Clothing in Japan
Early Showa department store elevator girl uniforms, Mitsukoshi (right), Daimaru (left)
Tanaka Chiyo was a pioneer in introducing Western clothing to Japan. When she died in the year 2000, her collection of nearly 4,000 articles of clothing from all over the world was donated to Minpaku. Here we introduce several examples from the Tanaka Chiyo Collection of working women’s uniforms, like those that Kon Wajiro sketched at the start of Modernologio, following the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.
Section 2. Items of clothing from the TV series Carnation have been added to the “Tanaka Chiyo Collection and the History of Western Clothing in Japan” section.
During the late Taisho and early Showa, when Modernologio was born, mobo (modern boys) and moga (modern girls) created quite a stir, but women wearing Western apparel actually remained rather rare. Kon Wajiro’s Index of the Report of Ginza Fashion Survey shows that even on the Ginza, the epicenter of the latest in Tokyo fashions, the proportion of women wearing Western costume did not exceed 1 percent. In fact, the items that contributed the most to the spread of Western costume among Japanese women were the uniforms worn by working women and students. In the section devoted to “The Tanaka Chiyo Collection and the History of Western Clothing in Japan,” we introduce uniforms from the personal collection of Tanaka Chiyo, a pioneer in the introduction of Western apparel to Japan, which was donated to Minpaku following her death. These include three items of clothing from the NHK TV morning drama series Carnation.
In the scenes of Showa 8 (1933) of that drama, its protagonist, Ohara Itoko (played by Ono Machiko) made these dresses, authenticated and produced under the direction of Ootagaki Taeko, director of the Couture de Soirée Research Institute. These have been lent to us for this special exhibition by NHK Osaka. (The following explanations are taken from the NHK Drama Guide, Carnation, Pt. 2, published by NHK.)
  • The “Dress for the Shinsaibashi Department Store” appears in week five, in the episode “Look at me.” Itoko, with the guidance of her Western dressmaking teacher, Negishi Yoko (played by Zaizen Naomi), sells her dress design to the department store.
  • ”Komako’s Dress” appears in week six, in the episode “A Girl’s Sincerity.” This dress, made for the young actress Komako (played by Miyajima Mai) is the first dress for which Itoko receives a commission to create.
  • ”Sae’s Evening Dress” also appears in week six, in the episode “A Girl’s Sincerity.” Itoko has just begun working at Royal, a men’s clothing store, and makes this evening dress for Sae (played by Kurotani Tomoka), a dance hall girl with whom her childhood friend Yasuoka Kansuke (played by Onoue Hiroyuki) has fallen madly in love.
The uniforms in the Tanaka Chiyo Collection were actually worn by women living at about the time in which the TV series is set, whereas the dresses that appear in Carnation are tailored for the actresses today. Comparing these dresses reveals how dramatically taller Japanese women have become in the last 80 years.
The dresses from Carnation also appeared in the digest version of Carnation, that was broadcast every Thursday starting from 12:20 p.m. on NHK Digital (Kansai only).
Theme III: Documenting, Researching, Re-creating: Homes and Their Environments
Section 1.  From the Omura Shige Collection: A Comprehensive Investigation of Machiya (Traditional Town House in Kyoto) Furnishings
Re-creation of the living room, Omura Shige’s favorite place
In the year 2000, the complete contents of the home of Kyoto essayist Omura Shige were donated to Minpaku. For four years, a joint research group led by Yokogawa Kimiko investigated and catalogued the nearly 15,000 items in the collection. The methods employed by this joint research project combined Omura Shige’s own written comments about the items with the comprehensive investigation methods (issaishirabe) of Modernologio.
Section 2. Investigating Materials Around the World
Image from the database for a comprehensive investigation of the Li family home’s furnishings.
A comprehensive investigation of household furnishings from Madagascar.
A panoramic movie constructed from images captured during fieldwork is used to access the results of research on the furnishings in a Malagasy home.
Seoul Style: A database for a comprehensive investigation of the Li family home’s furnishings.
For the special exhibition Seoul Style 2002, we received the cooperation of the Li family—the husband and wife, the husband’s mother, the sixth-grader son and fourth-grader daughter. We were able to record 7,827 observations of all aspects of their lives and create this database, which records how items were distributed, how they had been obtained, and other basic information as well as household members’ memories about them.
Section 3: A Comprehensive Investigation of a Mongolian Yurt’s Furnishings
2011 Yurt (photograph by Hotta Ayumi)
For this exhibit we undertook a comparison of the household furnishings of a yurt as sketched by Umesao Tadao during fieldwork in 1944 and the modern furnishings reported by the young researcher Hotta Ayumi, seventy years later. These comparisons reveal what is immutable and what is changing in Mongol lives.
Section 4: Comprehensive Investigations Preceding the Construction of 1/10th Scale Models of Minka
Three-dimensional plan from sketches of a futamune-zukuri (two wing house), Ethnological Quarterly, No. 2, December 1977.
Prior to the opening of Minpaku’s own galleries, the TEM (Tool and Technology, Environment, Man) Institute conducted detailed research on four selected types of minka and their furnishings, as preparation for creation of 1/10th scale models.  These have become valuable academic resources for thorough investigation of how lifestyles changed during the period of Japan’s rapid economic growth.