“Japan Awakens” uses the woodblock prints of Japan’s Meiji era to explore a remarkable period of rapid societal, industrial, military, and cultural modernization. During the brief Meiji period, Japan underwent an astonishing metamorphosis from feudal state to modern industrial and military power. The nation’s policy of isolationism, sakoku (closed country) initiated in 1639, was abruptly challenged in 1853 when Commodore Matthew C. Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay with four awe-inspiring iron vessels locally known as “black ships.” Faced with superior military technology, the Japanese were compelled to sign trade treaties withw the United States and other Western countries. Soon, after some bloodshed, the final shogunate dictatorship, the Tokugawa, gave way to the sovereignty of the emperor and a restoration movement that worked hard to shape the new Japan by amalgamating Eastern and Western ideas. Emperor Meiji would ultimately become the symbol of a modernized Japan, and his reign would represent one of the most remarkable periods in modern world history. Three thematic essays by Barry Till trace the links between the revival of imperial rule and forces both national and international, connecting formal and aesthetic changes in fine-art prints to these events.