Accepted Paper:

Selling "tradition" in Japan: the development processes of commercial practices  


Shinji Tsukahara (The University of Tokyo)

Paper short abstract:

I trace the process of how “traditional” commercial practices in a small (a city is by definition local) Japanese city develop. I focus on the establishment, the development, and the subsequent re-contextualization of several local family businesses.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper, I trace the development processes of "traditional" commercial business practices in a small Japanese city. I focus on the establishment, the development, and the re-contextualization of several local family businesses. Yanagawa City in Fukuoka is home to several small and medium sized family businesses. My research centers primarily on the historical aspects of traditional commercial practices of owners and managers of retail businesses.

As with many other cities in Japan, there are many small- and medium-sized family businesses in Yanagawa. However, in contrast with many other cities where there are business districts established 200 or even 300 years ago, in Yanagawa there are very few long-established businesses. Nevertheless, many contemporary commercial practices being carried out in these stores today are perceived as "traditional" practices. My research has sought to address two key interlinked questions. How were these "traditional" practices carried out in the past and how are they being carried out in the present? Through the marriage of historical and ethnographic approaches I attempt to answer these questions in this paper.

After tracing the history of these "traditional" commercial practices, two points must be emphasized. First, "traditional" commercial practices have been chosen as "business strategies" due to local limiting conditions. And second, commercial practices are being re-contextualized in the present tense. Moreover, it is especially important that these traditionalized commercial practices are considered to be effective both for well-being of the elderly and for local revitalization under the city administration.

Panel P130
Reinventing folkloristics as a study of modernity: Japanese perspectives (FSJ panel)