Rise of the Department Store and the Aestheticization of Everyday Life in Early 20th Century Japan

Tamari, Tomoko. 2006. Rise of the Department Store and the Aestheticization of Everyday Life in Early 20th Century Japan. International Journal of Japanese Sociology, 15(1), pp. 99-118. ISSN 0918-7545 [Article]

No full text available

Abstract or Description

This paper focuses on the ways in which the department store has become a key site for the constitution of Japanese modernity through the introduction of images and goods taken from the West, along with the emphasis on “Western design” and “Western taste”. These new consumer spaces have become aestheticized in various ways so that we can speak of an “aestheticization” of everyday life. Yet this was also a modernizing learning process for Japanese consumers, hence a key problem was how these new experiences were to be classified and ordered into a relatively stable habitus. The rise of the department store has had an important mediating function here. Department stores not only provided new goods along with interpretations of how to use them, but also acted as theatres, as rehearsal spaces, with front and back stage areas where one can watch the performance, try out for oneself new roles. This is especially the case for women in the city, who were able to explore a new identity space with a new set of competence experiences and pleasures. In this process, the department store also provided a form of women's public sphere where they could enjoy shopping, entertainment and learning opportunities. Department stores encouraged not only a sense of luxury and theatrical settings, but also help to teach women how to assemble new tastes and styles into their lifestyle. In addition, it should be emphasized that in the Japanese case, department stores also played an important role not just as a new cultural initiative on the part of the businessmen and cultural intermediaries who invented consumer culture, but also as a political initiative on the part of the government who sought to link them to the reform of everyday life and the production of good Japanese citizens.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):



aestheticization of everyday life; consumer culture; Mitsukoshi Department Store

Departments, Centres and Research Units:




Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Oct 2014 12:16

Last Modified:

27 Jun 2017 11:34

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



Edit Record Edit Record (login required)