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In 1895, Kyoto was badly in need of public relations. Kyoto’s population was in decline, and traditional industries such as ceramics and textile manufacturing were in disarray. Since 794, the city had been the Imperial capital, until Edo was renamed Tokyo in 1868 and the seat of power transferred there. The Emperor had moved into the new capital the following year, leaving Kyoto’s Imperial palace empty.

The exhibition “Kyoto Studies: City of the Avant-Garde — Modernism in Kyoto 1895-1930” at the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, starts in 1895, when the city decided to present a new face to the modern world. Kyoto had just become the Japanese first city besides Tokyo to host a National Industrial Exposition, and the year coincided with the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of the former capital. In commemoration, the new Heian Shrine, designed by Ito Chuta (1868-1954), was dedicated to Emperor Kammu, who had moved the capital to Kyoto from Nara in the 8th century, and Emperor Komei, the last emperor to sit on the throne in Kyoto.

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