Saturday, September 21, 2019

Re-Made in Japan by Joseph Jay Tobin Essay Example for Free

Re-Made in Japan by Joseph Jay Tobin Essay Re-Made in Japan, edited by Joseph Jay Tobin, is a collection of essays which study Japan’s post-World War II consumption habits and is predicated on the idea that if â€Å"in Japan students study hard and workers work hard, it is equally true that pleasure seekers play hard and consumers consume hard† (Tobin, 1992, p. 1).   In addition, the authors in this volume argue that Japanese consumerism borrows a great deal from the West but has given Western items and practices uniquely Japanese meanings, creating something both exotic and familiar.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Tobin, who received his doctorate in education from the University of Chicago and currently teaches at Arizona State University, specializes in the study of Japanese culture, ethnography, and the media’s effects (National Academy of Sciences).   The book draws on each of these by examining how the Japanese, a nation well-known for its ability to borrow from other cultures, has borrowed Western consumption habits but is not simply aping the West.   In addition, his contributors include a number of   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Tobin argues against the widely-spread misconception that the Japanese can only imitate and lack the ability to create, maintaining that â€Å"the Japanese [are] engaged in an ongoing creative synthesis of the exotic with the familiar, the foreign with the domestic, the modern with the traditional, the Western with the Japanese† (Tobin, 1992, p. 4).   In the process, Western cultural artifacts and habits have had their meanings changed into something uniquely Japanese, demonstrating their active engagement with the West instead of passive acceptance of imposed ways.   Consumption, Tobin implies, is as important as production in shaping national identity, and Japan’s habits have made it more dominant than submissive.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The work also attacks the myth of cultural purity and authenticity, which includes the manufacturing of â€Å"authentic† goods, rituals, and notions of history and community.   To its credit, the book makes a concerted effort to avoid portraying the Japanese as a monolith.   The thirteen authors here study both urban and rural Japanese, as well as questions of class and gender.   Though Tobin concedes that many of the volume’s observations are truer of Tokyo than of Japan’s smaller cities and countryside, he shows that similar trends pervade the entire nation, though they manifest more intensely in the capital.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   The book’s essays are all intriguing, though they vary in terms of how germane they are to the subjects Tobin addresses in his introduction.   Millie Creighton’s essay explores the manufacture and sale of â€Å"Japaneseness,† promoted mainly by the depato (department store, itself a Western import).   These large stores fit Japan’s sense of hierarchy and are a major conduit for Western goods, though they also promote education and a sense of Japanese values. She writes: â€Å"Depato, long brokers of Western goods and customs, now also play the reverse role of re-educating a westernized consuming public of their own cultural heritage, real or imagined† (Tobin, 1992, p. 54).   Also, James Stanlaw’s essay â€Å"For Beautiful Human Life† studies the large number of loanwords (nearly five thousand, mainly English-derived) in the contemporary Japanese vocabulary, most of which refer to material objects or goods largely unfamiliar to pre-war Japan (Tobin, 1992, p. 61) and examines the process of how the Japanese have altered those words’ meanings beyond their original definitions, showing how the cultural interaction was not wholly one-sided.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Scott Clark’s chapter on the Japanese bath – a traditional cultural practice which is now high-tech, with programmable water faucets and other accoutrements – also offers a good example of how foreign imports have been assimilated.   More importantly, Clark studies how this traditional practice has been brought into modern consumer culture because it has assumed meaning as a self-identifier and status symbol among consumers.   Even a high-tech bathing space can feel â€Å"traditional,† says Clark, showing how moderns’ sense of tradition is fluid and views tradition through contemporary lenses. In addition, many affluent Japanese patronized public bathing houses (though they have full bathrooms at home) because bath houses have become a consumer item rife with connotations of high status, good taste, and community through sharing Japanese tradition.   Clark comments, â€Å"Bathing in Japan is, of course, much more than its mere material manifestations.   It involves notions of status, purity, cleanliness, and bonding through naked association. . . . [If this] is neglected, members begin to feel that something important us lacking from the communal relationship† (Tobin, 1992, p. 102).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Nancy Rosenberger’s essay demonstrates the relationship between gender and consumption of Western goods, which in Japan is a sort of code attesting to one’s affluence, status, and good taste, as well as the quality of one’s family.   As she explains, magazine advertisements targeting Japanese housewives â€Å"link Western interior design with Western-style relationships. . . . In the housewives competition, the ultimate goal is the establishment of a feeling of ‘our house’† (Tobin, 1992, p. 113).   Basically, she claims, Western design means a better family because it connotes closeness and emotional stability.   Also, she adds, â€Å"Decorating allows a woman to express the whims of her ‘spirit, just as she is’† (Tobin, 1992, p. 114).   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Perhaps the strongest and most intriguing essay in this volume is Mary Yoko Brannen’s â€Å"Bwana Mickey,† which uses Tokyo Disneyland as evidence that the Japanese, instead of subserviently borrowing Western culture without question or criticism, approach it shrewdly and treat it in a somewhat bemused, even condescending fashion.   A near-identical copy of the southern California original, the park is not an example of the supposedly uncritical Japanese fascination with the West (indeed, the entire volume argues against that notion). Instead, Japanese visitors display their own sort of cultural imperialism, treating it as a quaint form of exotica, much like ethnic displays at world’s fairs a century ago treated people of color.   Brannan claims, The Japanese view the Other dualistically: positive responses include everything from respect to condescending appreciation; negative responses range from ridicule to outright omission† Tobin, 1992, p. 227).   One sees a tradition of Western thought turned on its head, with the Japanese retaining their cultural sensibilities and viewing this American import not with wide-eyed awe, but as a form of quaint American campiness.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Other essays work less effectively though they make for interesting reading.   For example, William Kelly’s essay â€Å"Tractors, Television, and Telephones† is an interesting look at how those three inventions have altered rural Japanese life.   While it explains the transforming effect on Japan’s countryside, it overlooks larger questions of consumption and cultural mingling and lacks a dynamic connection to Tobin’s arguments and to other essays in the book. Similarly, Diana Bethel’s chapter on homes for the elderly is a well-written piece of scholarship, but it seems out of place here as well.   Dealing primarily with socialization patterns among residents of convalescent homes, the essay focuses more on their patterns of adaptation to structured living, as well as how men and women each claim and define physical space, while consumption habits are somewhat peripheral and not related to Japan’s synthesis of foreign goods and habits.   Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚  Ã‚   Though not every work in this volume is equally effective, Re-Made in Japan is a useful work of cultural anthropology which studies cultural dialogue and synthesis.   It shows how cultural change is a dialogue, in which even seemingly subordinate recipients of foreign cultural artifacts and practices apply their own sensibilities and selectively incorporate certain things into their own cultures, transforming the imports into something â€Å"native.†Ã‚   For students of anthropology and cultural studies, this work has considerable value by providing models for studying the process of culture and the very nature of what makes something â€Å"authentic.† WORKS CITED National Academy of Sciences (2006).   Joseph Tobin Biography.   Retrieved 22 June 2006 from Tobin, J.J. (Ed.). (1992).   Re-Made in Japan.   New Haven: Yale University Press.

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