“Western-style furniture wave in Japan”

Teasley, Sarah. “Furnishing the Modern Metropolitan: Moriya Nobuo’s Designs for Domestic Interiors”.  Design Issues, Autumn, 2003, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Autumn, 2003), pp. 57-71. The MIT Press. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1512092. Accessed 24 Oct. 2021

This reading illustrates how and why the Japanese abandoned traditional interior furniture and transformed it into a western style. Teasley uses the example of Moriya Nobuo, who was a furniture designer and interior decorator, to state his perspectives. He discusses how the rapid development of Japan’s economy affects the revolution of furniture. He also talks about the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that changed Japan’s furniture style tremendously. 

Euro-American powers after the Meiji Restoration, reordering architecture and furniture. “Western” style was of modernity, whereas “Japanese” style was associated with old vernacular fashion. Under this context, Japan’s governments rebuilt churches, schools, libraries, and other public buildings with a more civilized face. Westernized furniture is acknowledged by more people. However, after the First World War, most people lived in rental accommodations that rooms were small and multi-functioned. Tenants can’t redecorate the house. Moreover, the high price of western furniture precluded purchases for most consumers. The western-style furniture wave was not popular around the 1910s. 

With the economic growth, the middle-class aroused. They sought higher living standards and became the main target of western furniture customers. Meanwhile, the Great Kanto Earthquake destroyed a tremendous number of houses. Moriya said, “this was not only “reconstruction,” but also a chance to be “all the more progressive in the sense of a revolution and improvement in all things” (Teasley, 7). The government moved residences to the countryside with larger houses. Western furniture got a chance since it required larger living spaces. Moriya’s exhibitions showed the beauty, practicality, and philosophy of furniture. Moreover, he paid attention to streamlining production, which made furniture more affordable and increased its quality. 

Chairs are an essential part of western furniture, and it has political meaning to Moriya. He deemed that chairs meant democracy for Japan, and rational chair-style life was the right of all Japanese. From the article, furniture is more than art aesthetic and practicality; it represents Japan’s democracy, economic development, living-standard, education. 

Author: Aoye Yuan

1 thought on ““Western-style furniture wave in Japan”

  1. Thank You,
    This blog sheds light on Japan’s shift from traditional to Western-style furniture, driven by historical events and economic growth. Moriya Nobuo’s role in this transformation, along with the political symbolism of furniture, is intriguing. A concise and insightful read!

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