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Atsushi Miura envisions a society in which we will own little but share a lot in his lively discussion on where consumer society in Japan is headed. I don’t buy it — well, not all of it — but nonetheless it’s an interesting and engaging analysis of Japan’s famously sophisticated and discerning shoppers.

The Rise of Sharing: Fourth-Stage Consumer Society in Japan
Atsushi Miura, Translated by Dana Lewis.
LTCB International Library, Nonfiction.

They weren’t always so. To take one of Miura’s examples: When Nestle Japan introduced instant coffee back in the bubble years it used the fictional Crown Prince Rudolph, heir to the Belgian throne, and a connoisseur of instant coffee, as its mascot. How times have changed.

Miura studied sociology before spending a lifetime in marketing. In his formative years he worked at Across, an influential marketing magazine, which explains the graphs, charts and photos that come thick and fast in his book. Who knew the venerable Woody Allen was not immune to making a yen, sticking his mug in an advert for Seibu Corporation?

Miura’s overall contention is that Japan is moving away from the buy bigger and better mentality to a fourth stage of consumerism, from “things to people.” The devastation wreaked on Tohoku spurred this change. From the outset he explains that the Internet does not figure much in his analysis: More’s the pity, because surely the Web, above all else, has been the harbinger for the rise of sharing.

The back end of the book is given over to interviews: writer and businessman Tsuji Takashi, who helped found Muji and who died in 2013, is refreshingly candid. This is Miura’s first book to make it to English and it’s a worthwhile effort.

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