Western Culture Invention versus Japanese Society

by Ayaka Nakamura

Since Japan was defeated in World War II, Japanese society had been strongly influenced by the Western culture. Wearing Western clothes, following its fashion trend, putting on fake eyelashes, wearing high heels, and looking for love marriages, Japanese have imitated Western lifestyles. However, people could not simply get rid of their own cultures and identities, so that they have been struggling in a process of acceptation of a new lifestyle. Different social groups show different reactions to get involved in the Western culture invention.

Although globalization has enabled Japanese people to have access to greater information of what Western cool people wear, eat, and buy, their different financial levels caused various reactions to the Western lifestyle. For example, the rich could buy the exact same products that they saw in Western TV dramas, but the poor could not. Young Japanese women buy western trendy clothes and dye their hair in lighter colors following an influenced perception of beauty, but some of them cannot afford many new clothes and/or monthly hair care. It seems, in this westernized consumerist society, people who cannot follow the dominant lifestyle are marginalized and labeled as “different,” which often contains negative images.

However, the relatively poor also try to get involved in the Western lifestyle stream. Those who cannot afford expensive Western goods create new affordable products to still adopt the Western lifestyle. In Japan, many cheap fashion brands have been established, such as Honey’s, INGNI, earth music&ecology, moussy and so on. They retail around 5000 yen items that most of all Japanese can afford. Borrowing the essence of the high end fashion, a new fashion was produced for the relatively poor to follow new values.

Moreover, as to Western images of independent women and love marriages, few Japanese women can enjoy the Western career women life because the most of women are still valued within gender ideologies. Although Sex and the City got very popular, in reality around forty year old women who have not married yet are called makeinu (負け犬), losers, which goes back to an old-fashioned idea that women’s happiness is marriage. Yet, other groups of people have started opposing this, and cerebrated those independent unmarried women as ohitorisama (おひとり様), which simply means one person but without any miserable nuance. Japanese social structure had conflicts with the Western value of career women, but creating new norms the whole society are involved in the process of adaptation. Independent “makeinu” women gained new identities as ohitorisama.

All over, it is difficult to determine what is bad and what is good of Western cultures. Globalization brought many changes in Japanese society, and certain groups of people have struggled with them. However, the whole process of acceptation of new values rolled up all groups of people and produced various solutions to join in the Western lifestyle. Adding new Western cultures on existing Japanese cultures, society and people are getting culturally globalized.

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