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  Foreign Species Blog  
  Japanese artists who drew pictures of flowers and (or) birds chose a wide range of species for depiction. Some species were native to Japan while others were foreigners (i.e., not occurring in Japan naturally). Foreign plants were imported to be used as garden ornamentals or for food while foreign birds were imported to be sold mostly as pets.

The number and geographic origins of foreign flowers and birds which appeared in Japanese art increased dramatically starting in the 1850s when Japan opened its borders fully to trade from other countries. Previously (i.e., 1630s to 1850s) Japanese government leaders had restricted the entry of trade goods from other countries to the port of Nagasaki where only Chinese and Dutch traders were allowed entry. These traders were not allowed to travel to other parts of Japan and Japanese citizens were forbidden to travel abroad. The intent of government leaders was to avoid political unrest by preventing disruptive foreign ideas from entering Japan. This isolationist policy also limited the number of foreign flowers and birds that entered Japan. Once trade barriers were removed new foreign species were imported and they began to appear in Japanese art. Pictures drawn after the 1850s included three times more foreign plant species and two times more foreign bird species than pictures drawn before the 1850s.

The geographic origin of foreign flowers and birds brought to Japan is shown in the pie-charts below. Before the 1850s mostly Asian species were imported which is perhaps not surprising since Asia is the continent closest to Japan. After the 1850s the percentage of species coming from more distant continents (e.g., the Americas) increased greatly.
  Geographic Origin of Foreign Species  
  Some foreign species were chosen for depiction more than others by Japanese artists. Popular choices are shown below for each of the continents from which flowers and birds were imported.  

Popular Foreign Flowers

  Popular Foreign Birds  

To see more foreign species that appeared in Japanese art click the following links:

Birds from    Africa    America     Asia     Australia     Europe  

Flowers from    Africa    America     Asia     Europe  


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