Whole Earth Review

Re-Made in Japan: Everyday Life and Consumer Taste in a Changing Society.

Re-Made in Japan: Everyday Life and Consumer Taste in a Changing Society. – book reviews

Richard Jaffe

The adaptation of Western consumer culture in Japan, ranging from Disneyland to Johnny Walker to McDonald’s, will give any Western visitor pause: how can a McDonald’s be so familiar and yet so Japanese? By exploring the ways the Japanese ore creatively domesticating Western culture, the essays in this book explode the myth that Japan is an imitative culture, and liberate the reader from the trap of viewing Japanese culture as a parady of our own.

PIastic food, sweatshirts with mangled English slogans, group honeymoon tours – there is a thin line between studying Japanese material culture and ridiculing it. I am not saying that there is nothing funny about an electronic toilet seat I am saying that the humor and ridiculousness we find in the consumer behavior and material culture of contemporary Japan suaest a continued orientalizing condescensign even as, or especially as, we find ourselves being eclipsed economically by the Japanese. in the arenas of money and thing, Japan has become for us the most important Other. Once the inscrutable antipode, our would be colony, our fierce enemy, and our eager apprentice, Japan has now become our ally, competitor, and secret sharer. We too easily project onto Japanese consumers our embarrassment, shame, and uneasiness about the allocation and meaning of goods in our own society. We see in Japanese consumer behavior both where we have been and where we fear we are headed. We see in Japanese weddings, with their plastic, reusable cakes and matching hisand-her honeymoon aloha wear, a parody of our customs and domestic paraphemaha. But to read Japanese consumption as meaninctsess, ridiculous, or parodic is to engage in a smug orientalist discourse. Are our wedding customs less ridiculous, more authentic, more genuine? Are any culture’s?

COPYRIGHT 1994 Point Foundation

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