From the 1920s to the early 1940s, Japanese department stores provided Japanese urban middle-class households with art and artifacts from China, Korea, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. The department stores not merely sold art and artifacts from Japan's Asian neighbors but also promoted the cultural confidence to appreciate and collect them. At the same time, aspiring middle-class customers satisfied their desire to emulate the historical elite's taste for Chinese and other Asian objects by shopping at the department stores. The aesthetic consumption of Asian art and artifacts formulated a privileged position for Japan in the imperial order and presented the new middle class with the cultural capital vital to the negotiation of its social status. This article examines the ways in which department stores marketed “tōyō shumi” (Oriental taste), which played a significant role in the formation of identity for both the imperial state and the new middle class in 1920s and 1930s Japan.

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