Bodies and Structures

Mitsukoshi: Consuming Places

Even if one has never visited in person, the space of the Mitsukoshi Department Store can likely be imagined in the abstract as a large container for an upper-class shopping experience. However, if we turn to the pages of the journal Mitsukoshi published from 1939 to 1943, we find that they open out to multiple physical spaces within the store and to the outside, to households and factories, to networks of production as well as consumption, and to reveal an imperial expansiveness long forgotten in the postwar. Undergirding this materiality of Mitsukoshi’s bodies and structures was an imagined geography of “East” and “West” that shifted from the early twentieth century, through the war, and into the postwar in ways that deeply informed the emerging world of modern consumption.

This module is intended to function as a curated and contextualized archive of visual images and texts rather than a textbook, primarily serving as an open-ended teaching resource. Questions are at the heart of this module, sometimes explicitly articulated in the pages, but also hopefully generated by the visitor's own context and goals.  The materials are sorted by themes, which include gender and imperialism as inflected by multiple ways of imagining and experiencing spaces.  A given set of images and texts will often posses internal tensions or present conflicts with other sets to explore, and it is hoped that visitors will come up with further ways to conceptually challenge and organize the materials.  

There are three pathways in this module, but visitors should also consider following tags and other forms of links to jump around within the module, or across modules. The first pathway provides an initial look at how the retail space of the Mitsukoshi Department came to be, and how central the peopling of this site was to the process. The second pathway introduces the store's journal, Mitsukoshi, and shows how its pages contain a multitude of spaces that variously reinforced, reimagined, or contradicted the nature of the store's cultural authority. The third pathway focuses on the stores's imperial expansiveness, and concludes with the question of what changes when we pay attention to these past dimensions.

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