Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Inside an Ideal Drugstore

For Hoshi, controlling space not only involved regulating the layout, location, and measurements of display cases and armchairs, but it also involved regulating the actions of each individual store clerk. The goal was to promote a consumer's sense of free choice, which the company purposefully contrasted to older, traditional medicine shops where shopkeepers, seated on tatami mats, would bring medicines individually for the consumer after careful consultation ("za-uri hōshiki"). In a sense, the company endeavored to eliminate the social awkwardness of the uneven interaction between medicine man and consumer, which was especially important if the customer's ailment were, indeed, awkward.

To this end, the company wanted the space of the drugstore, above all else, to promote an open, clean, and refreshing feeling that was enticing and allowed such ease of access that the customer would "unconsciously walk into a drug store without realizing it." Window displays, which delimited the store's boundaries, according to one source, should be designed to catch attention of a passing potential customer and be rotated every week in order to best attract customers' attention.

Drugstores thus appeared as another new space of democratic consumerism: the department store. Indeed, the space of an ideal drugstore provided a variety of functions, many of which seemingly had nothing to do with selling medicines. Drugstores often "appear[ed] no different than a general store (zakkashō)"; they sold a variety of goods such as candy, cosmetics, and tobacco, and they also provided a variety of services, including postal delivery, for public convenience.

Drugstores served, in a sense, as temples of mass consumption, and medicines appeared as products consumed as often—and maybe as blithely—as candy. Yet, at the same time, drugstores continued to serve as places where customers went for medical consultation and even treatment. Compared to the traditional layout of a drugstore, the difference was that the customer did not have to seek that help. Clerks, even if they were not licensed pharmacists, required rudimentary medical training to make medicinal recommendations.

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