St Petersburg University has held an open lecture delivered by an expert in literature studies, translator, Professor of Tokyo University of International Studies Numano Kyoko who told about how Japanese culture influenced Russian arts and fashion in the early 20th century.

As part of her trip to Russia, Numano Kyoko took part in the VI International Cultural Forum and delivered an open lecture to SPbU students where she told about Japanese elements in the Russian culture in early 20th century and about the history of how kimono appeared in Russia.

Numano Kyoko is a bright example of how perfect Japanese scholars, both researchers and translators, know Russian and how deep they can delve into the Russian culture.

SPbU Professor Aleskandr Filippov

The phenomenon of Japan in the Russian culture appeared in the early 20th century, said Numano Kyoko. Russian were immensely interested in collecting fans, ceramics, perfumes, but mostly the Japanese prints and paintings in Ukiyo-e style that influenced Russian paintings. These motives were popular among Igor Grabar, Anna ostroumova-Lebedeva, Vasilii Vereshchagin, and Ivan Bilibin who used The Great Wave off Kanagawa, a woodblock print by the Japanese ukiyo-e artist Hokusai, to create the paintings to the The Tale of Tsar Saltan.

The Japanese motives were incorporated in the Western fashion. An important event was a trip to Paris in1900 by Sada Yacco. Many artists, among them were Pablo Picasso, André Gide, Romain Rolland, Auguste Rodin, Gustav Klimt, and others, were enchanted by the exotic dancer. Nikolay Gumilev described her in his famous poem.

Her dress and the way how she performed impressed the audience. In the shop windows, you could see the “kimono of Sada Yacco” that mostly was regarded as wear-ay-home clothing. You can find some reminiscences about this trend in the Russian literature: in Andrey Bely’s novel “Petersburg” Sofia Likhutina was wearing kimono as a dressing gown.

How kimono was mostly regarded as a dressing gown in the West was reconsidered by a French fashion designer Paul Poiret. He is perhaps best known for freeing women from corsets in 1905: he used a kimono coat created specifically for an uncorseted figure. He was very close to the Russian world of arts. He greatly appreciated Serge Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons and was influenced by Léon Bakst who was an artist and scene-designer at the Diaghilev’s projects and followed Orientalism in arts and fashion design.

He met a Russian fashion designer Nadezhda Lamanova who created dresses for Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia up to 1917. Lamanova, perhaps influenced by Paul Poiret, used asymmetric lines in her dresses and wide belts like in the Japanese kimonos. She continued to use the Japanese elements even after the Revolution: her clothes were primarily designed to be comfortable to wear: straight silhouette, loose sleeves, collars as in the kimono.

At the end of the lecture, Professor told that Russia also had a great influence on Japanese arts. At the round-table discussion “Two worlds, two words, one ocean: Imagery of Russian and Japan” at the section “Education” at the VI International Cultural Forum, she told about how Russian literature influenced contemporary Japanese literary language.

Tokyo University of International Research has long been SPbU’s partner. In 2010, the universities signed an agreement on collaboration that stipulated that the students can study at the universities on exchange programmes. In 2017, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan initiated a project to cement ties between the universities with a particular focus on how to educate and prepare students for business.

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