The Department Store in Early 20th Century Japan: Luxury, Aestheticization and Modern Life

Tamari, Tomoko. 2016. The Department Store in Early 20th Century Japan: Luxury, Aestheticization and Modern Life. Luxury, 3(1-2), pp. 83-103. ISSN 2051-1817 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The aim of this paper is to shed light on the innovative luxury marketing strategies of the early Japanese department store, Mitsukoshi, which created a new type of spectacular and sensual consumer space with the western style building and interior design. Mitsukoshi was also a new attractive urban public space in which Japanese women began to enjoy luxury settings, enact new types of personae and learn to enjoy new aesthetic sensibilities and experiences. This paper also considers Mitsukoshi’s contribution made in providing new ideas about western lifestyles in line with Japanese government-led policies, such as the reform of everyday life movements, as well as the store’s own attempts to educate customers into the minutiae of westernized home and interior design. This promoted a new idea of ‘being modern’ and led to the combining of new forms of aesthetic experience with a greater democratization of luxury, which gradually permeated everyday life. Finally the paper analyses the Ryukokai, the Mitsukoshi think tank, which brought together a powerful set of cultural specialists and intermediaries to create a distinctive ‘Mitsukoshi taste’ with its associated the brand image.

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Identification Number (DOI):


Department store, consumer culture, new middle class, aestheticization, modernization, luxury, cultural intermediaries, interior design, Japan

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Institute for Cultural and Creative Entrepreneurship (ICCE)


1 September 2016Accepted
28 November 2016Published Online
13 December 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Jan 2017 16:22

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 02:32

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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