|From Japonism to fin de siècle-Melancholy:
Japan-Image in the late 19th Century Austria
The perception of foreign culture depends largely on the conditions on the part of the subject. This paper, relying on records by contemporary travelers to the Far East, examines what the Japan-image was like in Austria in the late 19th century, how and why it changed in the course of time. The Austrian image on Japan in those days was accompanied by exorbitant exoticism, which found expression above all in indulgence in handicraft and curiosities in Japanese taste or in ardent longing for "Okikusan". The enthusiasm was substantially determined by the Japonism that prevailed in various fields of cultural life in Europe at that time and culminated in the Habsburg empire as the World Exposition was held in Vienna in 1873. But, at the turn of the century, the fundamental tone of the Austrian Japan-image went through a gradual change. In place of the exoticism a more sober look came to the fore. Considering that the same shift in the Japan-image occurred in Germany and Britain as well, we cannot ascribe it to changes in the sphere of international politics or economy. We should rather assume that an intellectual atmosphere that was specific to the fin de siècle Europe caused the turn in the Japan-image.