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Abstract

The history of the introduction, evolution and contemporary—albeit limited—practice of academical dress in Japan is a story that parallels the revolutionary changes which swept across the once feudal nation as it emerged into the twentieth century. In the clash of East and West that characterized the rise of modern Japan, the parallel story of academic dress is one which debunks the model notion that conventions of Westernization and the process of modernization are inextricably linked. Set apart from the conventions of popular fashion, academic dress in the West represents the highest scholastic achievement. However, prior to Western contact, the wearing of robes called the kimono (着物) was already the standard practice amongst the people of Japan. To this day, the wearing of the kimono is widely accepted as a common practice both in academia and on almost any formal occasion. In Japan the introduction and assimilation of the practices of Western courts and popular fashion has had a greater impact upon the Westernization of Japanese culture than have had the robes of Western academia. Nevertheless, the robes of academic achievement are inexorably linked to the Westernizing standards of scholasticism and the general rejection of that standard is of genuine interest when considering Westernization as a concurrent prerequisite in the modernization of Japan. [Excerpt].

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