Institutt for sosialantropologi


By Jørgen Hatløy

Supervisor: Professor Edvard Hviding

This thesis focuses on appropriation of the foreign within Japan – especially what we might label ‘Western’. In the wake of the significant industrial, economical and also cultural change within the Japanese society over the last 150 years, certain journalists seem to have reached the conclusion that Japan has become Western. Similarly, some social scientists have deemed that many of the traditions in Japan are mere invented ones.

On a global scale, Japan is one of the biggest importers of ‘Western’ fashion and fads. By looking at the appropriation of fashion and music within two milieus connected to wave surfing and Western music events – I discuss aspects within Japanese society which can help form these processes. In extension of this, I also argue that the foreign can be used as appealing props in leisure activities as well as life-altering personal projects. The nature of these projects further suggests that the traditional family household enterprise is a tradition that not only lives on in families whose households have been succeeded directly throughout generations, but also that this old institution is used as a blue print for new social and corporate organization. I argue that the ‘inventiveness’ of this tradition, speaks for its vitality, and that at least one aspect of Japan society has not become Un-Japanese. This serves to show that while the appropriation of the Western and the foreign is vast, this often happens as pieces in processes which have long historical continuity on the Japanese isles.