Sunday, December 18, 2005

Chuo-dori, Ginza

Ginza affords people watching extraordinaire, particularly on the weekends when Chuo-dori is reserved for pedestrians. As Christmas approaches, shoppers swarm the streets and clot the department store aisles. Though there is no dominant religion and in fact not a lot of taste for religion in general here, this holiday adopted from the West has caught on largely due to national obsessions with shopping and fashionable goods. Chanel takes 50% of their global revenue from the Japanese market alone, and according to a 2002 survey a staggering 94% of Tokyo women in their 20s own a Louis Vuitton product (plus 92% own Gucci, and so on). So products whose intended appeal was to set the owner apart have become a requirement just to be part of the group. This should perhaps not be surprising if one considers the analogy with work - for decades certain people in the West were working extra long hours to try to get ahead of their peers, while in Japan nearly everyone did so just to keep up. This, of course, is changing, but the brand mania is not. There's something sad about women feeling compelled to part with the price of a month's rent (though most in fact live with their parents) just for a handbag, to say nothing of the things some have reportedly done to secure the funds, while the Vuitton people have seen their wildest dreams eclipsed by reality.  Posted by Picasa


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