Ueno Panoramakan (Ueno Panorama Theatre), Ueno Park, Tokyo, c. 1910.

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Panorama-kan, first opened at Ueno Park in 1890, was still in operation during the run of the Meiji Industrial Exhibition as seen in this 1907 exhibition commemorative postcard.

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Meiji Industrial Exhibition, Ueno Park, 1907

“In conjunction with the Third Industrial Exposition held in Ueno Park in 1890, Japan’s first panorama theatre, the Ueno pano-rama-kan (Ueno Panorama Theatre), opened its doors to the public.

“The new visual medium of the panorama mural (pa-no-ra-ma in Japanese) played an important, but often overlooked, role in providing yoga [lit., ‘Western-style painting’ as opposed to Nihonga, ‘Japanese-style painting’] an opportunity to demonstrate its power of persuasion through realism.

“… A panorama is one continuous picture applied to a large surface or adjacent walls, often encircling the area where the audience stands. This configuration enables the panorama to create the sense that the audience is standing within the picture they are viewing.

“An Englishman named Robert Barker is credited with originating the format, having received a British patent for his panorama in 1787; the new visual medium then enjoyed popularity in the West between the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

“… Soon after the opening of the Ueno Panorama Theatre, another panorama facility, the Nihon panoramakan (Japan Panorama Theatre), was built in Asakusa. The following year more panorama theatres sprang up in other popular entertainment districts including Kanda in Tokyo, Naba in Osaka, and Shinkyogoku in Kyoto. One might imagine how exciting it was for Japanese audiences to view accurately rendered scenes of events in lifelike scale as though the events were actually unfolding before their eyes..

“The spectacle of the panorama predated the ubiquitous presence of photography in the news media, to say nothing of the cinematic experience.”

Inexorable Modernity: Japan’s Grappling with Modernity in the Arts, edited by Hiroshi Nara, 2007

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