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Wearing Cultural Styles in Japan

Concepts of Tradition and Modernity in Practice

Christopher S. Thompson, John W. Traphagan

Publication Year: 2006

This groundbreaking collection examines the regional dynamics of state societies, looking at how people use the concepts of urban and rural, traditional and modern, and industrial and agricultural to define their existence and the experience of living in contemporary Japanese society. The book focuses on the Toµhoku (Northeast) region, which many Japanese consider rural, agrarian, undeveloped economically, and the epitome of the traditional way of life. While this stereotype overstates the case—the region is home to one of Japan’s largest cities—most Japanese contrast Toµhoku (everything traditional) with Tokyo (everything modern). However, the contributors show how various regional phenomena—internationalization, lacquerware production, farming, enka (modern Japanese ballads), women’s roles, and professional dance—combine the traditional, the modern, and the global. Wearing Cultural Styles in Japan demonstrates that while people use the dichotomies of urban/rural and traditional/modern in order to define their experiences, these categories are no longer useful in analyzing contemporary Japan.

Published by: State University of New York Press


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Title, Copyright Pages and CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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This volume developed out of a panel organized by Christopher S. Thompson and John W. Traphagan at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Washington D.C. in 2001 that examined “Tradition, Modernity, and Globalization in Regional Japan.” ...

Part I. The Political Economy of Social Change in Tōhoku Japan

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p. 1

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1. The Practice of Tradition and Modernity in Contemporary Japan

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pp. 2-24

“What we would like,” said Obuchi Yasuo, the former mayor of a farm town in northeastern Japan, “is for young people and their employers in Tokyo to consider lifestyle alternatives never possible before. Male and female employees could maintain a spacious residence here in the countryside while commuting to work in the city.” ...

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2. The Social Impact of Rural–Urban Shift: Some Akita Examples

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pp. 25-46

Over the past century and a half, there has been a marked shift in population in Japan from rural to urban settings creating one of the most urbanized societies in the world. Obviously, the basic rural–urban shift started more than a century ago but the modern manifestation, with industrialization, has continued effectively up to the present and shows little sign of decreasing. ...

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3. Rice Revolutions and Farm Families in Tōhoku: Why Is Farming Culturally Central and Economically Marginal?

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pp. 47-71

It may strike the reader as odd that in a volume on Japan’s most archetypal rural region this is but the single chapter on agriculture. Where are the farmers and what happened to agriculture? To be sure, the agricultural output of the region remains nationally prominent and economically important: Aomori apples, Yamagata cherries, and other fruits and vegetables; poultry...

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Part II. Wearing Tradition and Wearing Modernity: Negotiating Paths of Social Change

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pp. 73-75

Changes in the political economy of rural areas within advanced industrialized societies challenge governments, average citizens, and the private sector to develop novel ways of coping with and adjusting to emerging circumstances. As the human actors in these contexts confront the realities of social change in their respective communities, they rarely respond pas-...

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4. Young Women Making Lives in Northeast Japan

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pp. 76-95

In northeast Japan, an hour or so from a bullet train stop, young Tokyo women find a hip place to go for a weekend of skiing in winter or golfing in summer; a place to get in touch with nature and festivals of “traditional Japan”; a place to meet a cute local guy perchance, but not to fall in love. He probably is an eldest son with a father, mother, and farm just waiting to...

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5. Negotiating Internationalization in Kitasawa

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pp. 96-123

Kokusaika (internationalization) has become a nationwide theme in Japan in recent years, driven by both external and internal forces (McConnell 2000; Meguro et al. 1988; Neustupny 1982; Shiba and Keene 1996; Siegal 1994; Tanaka 1995; Watanabe 1992, 1993; Yano 1986). One of Japan’s most symbolic efforts used for improving its international stature was the start of...

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6. Preserving the Ochiai Deer Dance: Tradition and Continuity in a Tōhoku Hamlet

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pp. 124-150

Long before Japan’s rural nostalgia boom began during the 1970s (Creighton 1997; Kelly 1986; Knight 1994a; Robertson 1991), the preservation of local minzoku geinō (folk performance arts) was a serious concern among municipal residents throughout Japan who feared that their grassroots folk traditions and cultural histories would be forfeited to modernity during the postwar period...

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7. Heartbreak’s Destination: Tōhoku in the Poetic Discourse of Enka

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pp. 151-170

When I entered Tōhoku University for a year of study abroad, singing enka music with its dreary themes of heartbreak was not a part of my study plans. When I returned to Sendai for dissertation research, however, I learned two important things. First, a knowledge of enka is important to any understanding of popular Japanese sentiment...

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8. Tradition and Modernity Merged in Tsugaru Nuri Lacquerware: Perspectives of Preservation and Promotion, Production and Consumption

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pp. 171-195

Aomori Prefecture, named after its “blue forests” of Japanese cypress, is the northernmost prefecture of the Tōhoku Region. With a population of approximately 1.48 million, spread through three major cities, five second-tier cities, and 59 towns and villages, Aomori is clearly rural. ...

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9. Epilogue: Tōhoku: A Place

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pp. 196-206

Place is highly significant in Japanese culture, seemingly more so than in other advanced, industrial societies, though such things are hard to quantify with the methodological tools available in the social sciences today. Natal house, natal village, natal community, natal town, one’s school at various stages of education, places of natural, historical or national signifi-...


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pp. 207-208

Name Index

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pp. 209-211

Subject Index

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pp. 213-216

E-ISBN-13: 9780791482100
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791466971
Print-ISBN-10: 0791466973

Page Count: 228
Illustrations: 12 tables, 11 figures
Publication Year: 2006

OCLC Number: 69242535
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Wearing Cultural Styles in Japan

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Subject Headings

  • Social change -- Japan.
  • Culture and globalization -- Japan.
  • Japan -- Social conditions -- 1945-.
  • Japan -- Civilization -- 1945-.
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