K-pop: its social and spatial influence on the Tokyo cityscape
thesisposted on 29.03.2022, 02:21 by Kathryn Phillips
This thesis examines the influence and effect of K-pop (Korean Popular Music) on the Tokyo cityscape and how Tokyo residents’ react to the ongoing consumption of the genre and its related commodities. Using participant observation, a pilot survey and interview data collected through ethnographic fieldwork, I argue that K-pop is normalised within the cityscape using previously embedded neoliberal practices. I also demonstrate that K-pop and the broader Korean wave have transformed Shin-Ōkubo — a previously-established “Koreatown” — into a K-pop sakariba (amusement district). This sakariba has become pivotal to the construction of a Korean Wave subculture that I call the “Kanryū lifestyle”, which I conceptualise via Bourdieu’s sociological theories of habitus and taste. Finally, I suggest that non-consumers attempt to manage identity boundaries in relation to K-pop consumption and the Kanryū lifestyle by maintaining its exceptionality through nihonjinron beliefs and attitudes, often used to defend the idea of a unique and homogenous Japan. Together, this study argues that while non-consuming Tokyo residents may attempt to minimise K-pop and the Kanryū lifestyle’s influence in order to regulate their own identities, K-pop’s adoption of Japan’s neoliberal consumption practices means that it continues to become normalised both socially and spatially within the cityscape.