What Oscar Wilde Knew About Japan

The whole of Japan is a pure invention," said Oscar Wilde, who should have known, since he was a pure invention himself. What he meant, of course, was that Japan, as much as anywhere, is a product of our imagination, and the country that we see is only the one we have been trained to see. Life imitates art. Yet, in a deeper sense, anyone who would understand that land of cultured surfaces can do no better than to turn to Wilde, who kept up appearances as if they were the only reality he knew. His championing of masks, his preference...

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