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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Tokyo as a city of consumption: space, media, and self identity in contemporary Japan Tanaka, Akio


Tokyo, despite its recognition as a city of global finance and commerce, has long been precluded in the ongoing debate over cultural practices of consumption. This thesis attempts to bridge the gap between existing theories on consumption in Western literature and the actual practices of consumption in urban Japan, with a view to establishing inter-relationships among consumer practices, local geographies, urban media, and self-identities. Specifically, I will trace the genealogy of consumer practices in postwar Japan with a focus on urban youths who, as taste leaders, play a pivotal role in the formation of the new consumer ethos. In the case studies that I present, I will locate the wider cultural changes between the 1960s and the 1980s in the parallel changes in youth culture which are associated with two particular locales in Tokyo: Shinjuku in the 1960s and Shibuya in the 1980s. Finally, I will argue that, in the context of Japan's recent "internationalization," the emergence of the new cultures of consumption is central to the new articulations between self-identity and spatial perceptions. Tokyo Disneyland, as a case study, will be used to illustrate this cultural nexus between the economy of symbolic consumption and the organization of consumptive landscapes. Moreover, the new forms of consumption play an influential role in creating self-images for Japan's consuming public, particularly in relation to the images of the "West" that are omnipresent in the Japanese popular media.

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