Bodies and Structures

Mitsukoshi: Consuming Places

The Mitsukoshi Department Store provided grand spectacle through its imposing structures for upscale shopping in Japan from the early twentieth century. (Begin with Hatsuda Toru in Japanese on this topic. Subject of chapter by Noriko Aso in English.) The distinctive spatiality of this retailer was also shared with customers outside as well as within major metropolitan areas through the retailer's various catalogs and high-end journals. 

In this module, we focus on how the pages of a wartime run of Mitsukoshi issues, published from 1939 to 1943. These issues opened up for readers not just store interiors but also many external spaces, including households and factories, networks of production as well as consumption, and an imperial expansiveness long forgotten in the postwar.  These wartime issues starkly show how Mitsukoshi’s two- as well as three-dimensional bodies and structures were deeply rooted in an imagined geography of “East” and “West,” whose boundaries were not quite as clear and stable upon close inspection as they might have appeared from a distance.

"Mitsukoshi: Consuming Places" is intended to function, not so much as a textbook, but as a curated and contextualized archive of visual images and texts. Questions rather than answers are at the heart of this teaching resource.  Sometimes they are explicitly articulated, but they should also be generated by a visitor's own context and interests.  The materials are sorted by themes, which include gender and imperialism, and present 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 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 undermined 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 dimensions in the past.


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