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VOLUME 2 (2000), ISSUE 4  (WINTER)






This article focuses on the presentation of Japanese cultural identity in contemporary Japanese advertising - what the author calls "adentity". Applying qualitative content analysis to a pool of over 5,000 television advertisements culled over the last decade, Todd Holden argues that Japanese identity is mediated in a large number of ways through commercial communication.

Disputing the often "homogenous" label pinned on Japanese society and its people, this analysis suggests that contemporary Japan is far more heterogeneous than one might reasonably expect. Identity in commercial communications is not just about "we Japanese" any more. Increasingly, messages of identity are about the personal search, encouraging individuals to find their own way, to live for themselves, to seek, express and receive affection, to become more self-centered and personally goal-directed.

Such themes reflect a departure from the past - where identity was often mediated by the group and/or conferred by products. Multiplied, and reproduced in numerous situations in conjunction with a variety of stars and social practices, such messages possess the potential to reorient members of Japanese society in ways that already appear to be emergent in the larger life world. The author suggests that such "adentifications" carry the prospect of exerting considerable sociological effect on the Japanese nation and its culture in the years to come.


Identity - Television - Advertising - Japan


Todd HOLDEN is a Professor at the Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan.


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