Japan

Organized Panel Session

3 - For a Modern Family Lifestyle: A Gendered City Branding

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Thurgood Marshall East, Mezzanine

Confronting disturbingly low birthrates since 1990s, the Japanese government has promoted alternative lifestyles encouraging married couples to share both parenting and paid work to improve their fertilities. In this paper, I examine a city’s branding strategies, which embody this ongoing national concern by crafting particular modern family lifestyles. Drawing on public announcements and fieldwork, I focus on Nagareyama city, a once low-profile residential area located on the outskirts of Tokyo, which has recently been successful in attracting young families. With the marketing branch established first in Japanese municipalities in 2004, the city has particularly targeted DEWKS (dually employed with kids) and publicized itself as “The wooded place closest to downtown Tokyo.” Whereas highlighting its nature-rich suburban environment unattainable in central Tokyo, it nevertheless promotes its modern atmosphere, emphasizing vicinity of Tokyo and portraying images of international families between Japanese women and Western men on a PR advertisement. On the other hand, it aims to appeal to and empower women with the eye-catching slogan, “Choose Nagareyama if you are going to become a mother,” and showcases mothers who cherish both family and career—as yoga instructor, baby massage instructor, and illustrator—which allows them to stay close to their children. Consequently, such a style of motherhood in a modern setting is advertised as desirable and having cultural capital (Bourdieu 1984). The branding ostensibly centers on municipal and national sustainability, yet in so doing deploys elements of modern sophistications and crafts “urban imaginary” (Czarniawska 2000; Greenberg 2000) for a modern family lifestyle.

Atsuko Oyama

Stony Brook University, New York

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