Japanese Orientalism in Britain: As Seen Through the Eyes of W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan in their Opera, The Mikado


  • Nicole Penley Wichita State University


British-Japanese relations, Orientalism, Japanese art and culture, Japanese music, Sir William Schwenck (W.S.) Gilbert, Arthur Sullivan, The Mikado, The Story of the Mikado, Japanese Village at Knightsbridge


"The Orient was almost an European invention, and had been since antiquity a place of romance, exotic beings, haunting memories and landscapes, [and] remarkable experiences."1 The Orient, during the nineteenth century, referred to all cultures to the east of Western Europe, from Turkey and the Middle East through Asia and the Pacific lslands.2 Currently, the term Orientalism, especially in the Arts, is used to describe music and art that was influenced by these eastern cultures but had been filtered through European models. As a result, these pieces often tell more about the European cultures than they do about the culture that they were modeled after. The Mikado (1885) is not only one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most popular operas, but it also can illustrate how the British populace viewed the Orient in general and the Japanese in particular.