Luxury, Capital and the Modern Girl: A Historical Study of Shiseido Corporation.

Mariko ADACHI (Osaka Women's University)

This essay tries to understand the “modern girl” phenomenon, which became prominent internationally in the 1920s and 1930s by scrutinizing the gap between “desires in capitalism” and the realistic statuses of women. In other words, the way women lived their lives in reality was not a direct method we can use to locate the temporal, spatial, class and ethnic specificities of the modern girl. Rather, we investigate ways to understand how and when the modern girl was constructed through capitalism as fill-ins for such a gap.
Through this method, we can track how the backward characteristics of colonialism of Japanese capitalism were incorporated into the capitalistic world system (the backward characteristics marked by the colonialism itself in the expansion of capitalism).
In this historical investigation, through analyzing a private corporation known as Shiseido and tracing its history, we try to explain concretely how representations of the modern girl were reconstructed by the two significations of soap (luxury and militarism), and by the two strategies of enterprises (images of products and business management).

The three hypotheses above might shed new light on the meanings of colonial modernity in Japan.