Modernization of “Tradition” Resumed after 150 Years of Vacuum: Normalization of Wearing “Traditional” Clothes in Japan

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Satoshi MAEDA, Institution of Humanities, Tokyo Metropolitan University, Japan
The modernization of "traditional" clothes is widely observed in Japan. This recent phenomenon should be construed from the perspective of the global modernization process that normalized the custom of wearing clothes from western civilization while it paused the modernization of "traditional" clothes of non-Western regions. Japan now seems to have entered a new era in which the modernization of what “tradition” originally warranted is finally being resumed. If this is a bounce-back from the compression of the rapid process of modernization (Kyung-Sup 2010 “Individualization without Individualism,” Journal of Intimate and Public Spheres) in the 19th century, the implication is that similar phenomena may soon become observable around the world where compressed modernization has been implemented at the cost of pausing the development of "traditional" practices.

There are two questions that need to be answered. First, is this a phenomena unique to Japanese society but not other Asian nations, such as South Korea and China? Second, what are the undercurrent social sentiments of this seemingly gradual resilience from the distortion of compressed modernization 150 years ago? Is it a nationalistic conservative swing in reaction to the rise of surrounding nations? Or, is it perhaps simply a marketing strategy that commodifies ethnicity? If both are culprits, then which has more weight?

In order to answer these questions, this research first took a glimpse at the historical adaptations of western clothes in Japan, South Korea, and China, as well as the trend shift in dress codes throughout recent times and to date in these countries. Then, a survey was conducted to examine the possibility of a rise in conservative nationalism and the mere utility of the commodification of ethnicity as independent variables affecting this new trend. Finally, interviews were conducted on those who dress in Kimono/Yukata on a regular basis in Tokyo.