The Image Factory: Fads and Fashions in Japan, Pages 137-149

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Reaktion Books, 2003 - History - 176 pages
3 Reviews
Just as a person contrives a style, the purpose of which is integration and the effect of which is presentation, so a nation collectively projects an appearance, a "national" style. Such styles are made of many layers. The deepest layer is composed of the immutable and the traditional. Nearer the surface floats fashion, changeable but sometimes more abiding. And frothing on the surface is fad.

By definition a fad is novel and appears from outside. Fads must have instant appeal and do not have a long shelf life. In Japan, an assortment of islands, the outside is often the quality that defines the inside.

Japan has a history of chasing fads and fashion. Since the 19th century, foreign products have been welcomed in, from the cult for "squeaky shoes" in the mid-19th century to the current fad for virtual reality girlfriends. Japan’s mandate was that, having been opened late, it had to hurry to catch up. Fads provide both a social distraction and a sense of cohesion, indicating not only foreign importation but also native adaptation.

The Image Factory is both an investigation into fads, fashions and style – such as US Army surplus uniforms, "pachinko", mutating hair colors – and an appreciation of their inherent meanings. The Japanese have seized upon fads and fashion as an arm of enterprise to a much greater extent than elsewhere in the world. Ephemerality has been put to work, the transient has become industrialized, and the results are highly conspicuous.

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Review: Image Factory: Fads and Fashions in Japan

User Review  - Richard Horsman - Goodreads

A fascinating set of essays on fads and fashions in lat 20th and early 21st century Japan, wonderfully enhanced by Richie's engagingly pompous and arch authorial voice. Reminded me quite a bit of Alexander Theroux. Do his other writings have the same tone, anybody know? Read full review

Review: Image Factory: Fads and Fashions in Japan

User Review  - Kim - Goodreads

This is yet another one of those overly academic books that seems to be totally weirded out about the things in japan that most people who live here find mundane. I have lived in Japan for almost ... Read full review

Selected pages


The Image Industry
Fashions Tongues
Kawaii Kingdom of the Cute
The Sex Bazaar
Leisure Options
Manga Culture
The Convenience Phone
Fake Foreigners

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About the author (2003)

Donald Richie has lived in Tokyo for over 50 years. He is the author of many books, including the travel book The Inland Sea and Tokyo: A View of the City (Reaktion, 1999).

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