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

The Drugstore on the Street

The success of the drugstore depended, perhaps above all, on its location. The image on the left depicts a Hoshi drugstore in central Tokyo.

The company modeled its drugstores on American examples, and frequently sent company executives on fact-finding missions abroad. According to one executive, Anraku Eiji, who went on one such journey in 1917 to Midwestern chain drugstores in the United States such as Rexall and Walgreen's:

When one first steps into a town in America, and walk along its streets, if one asks what kind of shop will most catch your eye, the answer would undoubtedly be a drugstore.  Among all the stores in America, I believe there are really no stores better able to attract the attention of passersby—or, moreover, as approachable—as drugstores. When wandering the streets, drugstores can bring one to a halt—one suddenly might want to borrow a light, and without hesitation, one enters under a drugstore's awning. This is because of the structure and location of American drugstore, which are ideally suited for attracting customers—in other words, it is due to business strategy. That is why the most important point to pay attention to, when opening a drugstore, is the location and structure of the store. And, consequently, it is why they are the most ingenious among stores in America (“Beikoku no kusuriya” 1917).

Here, Anraku Eiji, describes how customers almost subconsciously enter drugstores. They are often not there to explicitly purchase medicines, but might simply “might want to borrow a light.” In this sense, the ideal drugstore appears as if it's not a drugstore at all, but simply as an everyday convenience for potential customers—a naturalized part of the rhythm of everyday life. Indeed, Anraku's words thus demonstrate how the space of the drugstore shapes modern values of health and hygiene in subtle, nudging ways. Companies like Hoshi served as important vectors for proselytizing such values by creating spaces for consumption that made it seem like customer was always in charge.

Click here for a full translation of Anraku's article.

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