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

Locating Reijo

The journals published by the Osaka Mitsukoshi maintained through much of the Asia-Pacific War the store's long tradition of special features spotlighting daughters (reijo) of the local elite. In this case, the featured families were drawn from Osaka corporate leadership along with members of the aristocracy. Framed as a visit (hōmon) to a particular household, the neighborhoods (though not exact addresses) of the women were often mentioned along with their names, ages, schools, and hobbies (both Japanese, such as flower arranging, and Western, such as sewing clothes from patterns).

The map above roughly indicates a number of the neighborhoods mentioned, likely recognized by readers at the time as elegant and exclusive, one being Ashiya. (Unfortunately, many of the prewar place names are no longer used and challenging to pin down.)

Concrete details such as neighborhood provided in the course of these Mitsukoshi household “visits” served to ground the seeming reality of an idealized Mitsukoshi customer. The effect of this carefully curated fact—precisely not fiction—was to nurture what could only be a fantasy for most. Nevertheless, we can read these reijo features backwards to begin to reconstruct some spatial dimensions of class.

If you then turn to the portraits in this long-running series, you might note that the featured women were always located in gracious and intimate spaces suited for performances, creating art, or hobbies. They were never engaged in the act of consuming itself. It would seem that good taste demanded subtlety in, though by no means rejection of, modern consumerism.

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