In The Shadows of War, the Satsuma Rebellion affects everyone, running from January through at least the autumn of 1877. This period finds my characters facing the conflicts and hardships of a civil war in their area while trying to move forward in their lives, despite it.
This is echoed in Japan as a whole, where the Empire focused on crushing the Rebellion decisively on the one hand, no matter what the cost, and, on the other, showing an entirely different face to the world as it still grappled for a permanent position among First World Powers.
World's Fairs or International Exhibitions were wildly popular during this portion of the Industrial Revolution. These began in the first half of the 19th century, but grew exponentially during the 1860s and 1870s, happening all over the world. Western people were fascinated by the cultures, arts and aesthetics of all the new-to-them wonderful places in the world! Travel was now possible for the adventurous and well-heeled. Those who couldn't go were excited to learn, either by reading the stories of others or perhaps even seeing what other nations might bring to these International Exhibitions, which were held much closer to home.
Inventions burst out all over. Manufacturing innovations and exiting new modes of transportation blossomed. International commerce was easier than it had ever been, and that meant leaps forward in economic activity. That this largely benefitted colonial powers was not lost on Japan, which had so far successfully resisted being placed on the unfavored side of the equation.
Japan participated in many Worlds' Fairs as an exhibitor, promoting its arts and culture to create a thriving export trade. It hosted its own in 1872 in Kyoto, as an Exhibition of Arts and Manufacture. But what Japan wanted was industrial trade. Selling ceramics and art works and textiles was all well and good, but the big money and the big power was in industry. From August 21 to November 30, 1877, a huge and unprecedented exhibit was held in Ueno Park in Tokyo. The idea was to repeat this kind of exhibit every five years to showcase Japanese ingenuity and develop international manufacturing and industrial trade.
Many of the buildings are still in place, though they've been renovated, of course, and some have been replaced.
One of the major new items shown was Tachi Gaun's Cotton Spinning Machine. That led into an interesting area of Japanese and international patent law, but of course Maeda Azuki, the Toki-Girl, doesn't know much about that. What she does know is that this device will make the production of cotton fabrics on an industrial scale by new small-scale local collective operations possible. She must go see it!
Which meant I spent over an hour trekking to the National Museum that now occupies the buildings, or their replacements, that date from 1877 and some subsequent Exhibitions of the same kind!