Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Conclusion: The Space of Consumption

This module has illustrated how a company attempted to create an idealized space for the sale of its medicines, based, in large part, on two articles from the company newspaper. They represented Hoshi Pharmaceuticals' efforts to induce franchise owners to convert their pre-existing stores into shiny, new, multi-function steel-constructions that connected drug consumption to the rhythms of an everyday, modern and middle-class lifestyle.

It is unclear, however, how many franchises decided to convert, and it seems likely that very few actually did. One of the first franchises to do so was a Tokyo drugstore called Sawada Yakkyoku, based at Hongo san-chōme. It was celebrated in the May 1924 edition of the company newspaper as a “true American-style drugstore” (jūnzen-taru Beikoku-shiki yakuten) for doing such innovative things as offering coffee and soda to customers (“Hongo no menuki ni kōtetsu-sei tenpo” 1924). But that was the only example I could find. It is unclear how many franchises actually converted. By late 1925, after the outbreak of Hoshi's opium scandal, increasingly prescriptive articles began appeared in the company newspaper, which exhorted franchises to push on in their plans for conversion, despite the high costs of capital and the problematic climate facing the company (“Tokuyakuten no shihon oyobi tenpo gairyō ni oite” 1925; “Tokuyaku-ten kakui! Hoshi shiki tenpo kensetsu kumiai ni oite” 1925).

Nevertheless, examining the space of an idealized drug store as a contact zone provides some important insights concerning consumption. It shows how consumption is inherently spatial and how the control of that space is often inherently hierarchical, though never total. And, perhaps above all, it shows how consumption is always a fraught and competitive process, which involves a multiplicity of actors and a multiplicity of potential outcomes. Consumption is a tricky, unstable interaction that makes the capitalist world go-round.

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