Modern consumerism in the Twentieth-first Century has caused affluence in culture and society. The American Heritage Dictionary defines consumerism as a "theory that a progressively greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial." Since the early 1990s, modern consumerism has been providing many forms of contemporary design, modern fashion, and modern technology. Specifically, the two cultures of the United States and Japan have been similarly influenced by modern consumerism, yet these countries have different influences in their contemporary lifestyle, the contemporary pop culture, and the contemporary role of the global society.
Both the United States and Japan have the social effect of a contemporary lifestyle, which affects their concept of culture and cultural changes in these modern societies. Formerly, many different cultures had defined the United States culture as White American; however, modern American society has been increasing toward an ethnic diversity now known as multiculturalism. According to John Painter, the United States culture stresses individualism in the over heterogeneous population. Americans believe in having equal opportunity, freedom of self-expression, and individual achievement. They believe in taking control of their lives and determining their future achievement. In addition, they openly speak their opinions, even when giving a negative outlook (1-4). Typical Americans spend time with their family, friends or with their community to celebrate many different holidays. They also enjoy watching or playing sporting sports, whether it is indoor or outdoor. For instance, watching the Super Bowl is a common popular event, with fans anxiously awaiting the American Football championship game each year. Family and friends gather at a home barbecue, a tailgate party, or a sports bar to watch the Super Bowl and root for their favorite team.
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In contrast, Japan is largely a homogeneous population. The Japanese culture is based on interdependence and their cultural practices (Magar 1-2). From generation to generation the modern youthful society practices many cultural traditions, including bonsai-miniature tree, kimono, origami, kabuki-tradition Japanese theater, sumo wrestling, and sadou-tea ceremony (McBennett 1-2). The Japanese believe in harmony, cultural behavior, and interdependence. They believe creating both power and weakness depends on their interdependency. They thrive on work because of their high expectations and family traditions, and believe that conformity produces harmony when giving a stoic expression (Williams 1). To illustrate, when a person enters any commercial building, such as a MacDonald's, the entire store employees welcome the customer with proper greetings. When the customer is through purchasing a meal, the employee will head-bow with appreciation.
The contemporary pop-culture has major influences in both American and Japanese societies. The United States music industries have influenced many Americans, especially the youth, in the way they speak, think, and dress. Also, many of the celebrities viewed on television, in film, over the Internet, and in many magazines have also become role models for the Americans society. Hence, fashion exploitation has affected the majority of American population. For example, many middle-class Americans dress in costly fashion designer clothing as if they can afford it, and then there are young adults who dress similarly to those celebrities viewed in music videos or on television (English 1).
Similarity, many Japanese are highly influenced by film, television, manga, anime, and pop music; however, they mimic by dressing like animated characters, as if every day is Halloween. In particular, Harajuku, an area in Tokyo, Japan, has many age groups of males and females who dress-up like a manga, or an anime character (Gostelow 24). The popular culture mimics characters such as the cosplay, the street fashion, and the Gothic Lolita fashion. Cloe explains, "Cosplay is the Japanese shortening of the term 'costume-play' and refers to people who dress up based on characters from anime, games, books, television, anything really" (qtd. in Calbot 1). "Gothic Lolita, the unabashedly female concept in cosplay combines fashion of Gothic and Lolita styles. This style that originated sometime in the 1990s has since developed into many sub-styles" (qtd. in ADMIN 1). While these Japanese fashionistas gather in their costumes, many other Japanese and tourists may watch them sing, dance, or play tricks. Japanese dress as Japanese animation character to entertain their society (Bestor 1).
The United States and Japan have focused much attention on the contemporary role of the global society. American homes range from apartments, houses, mobile homes, hotels, or condos, which range from 900 to 5,000 square feet, or even larger. The economic growth has changed the way many Americans choose to live, assuming bigger is better. Furthermore, environment problems such as pollution have caught the attention of many Americans who now participate in recycling by conserving bottles, cans, papers, and other items. However, recycling is only optional to residents and to the public. In addition, smoking is prohibited in certain areas in the United States. All restricted non-smoking applies to public buildings, public transportation, school properties, and hospital properties. Evidently, the Americans have their attention on improving their society. Moreover, the American global traits are centered on modern technologies, which include different gadgets, which upgrade often, and personal information systems such as the computer, phones, and game systems.
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On the contrary, the Japanese live in small, efficient houses or apartments of about 100 to 500 square feet. Two to five other Japanese usually occupy these apartments because living expenses are extremely high. Besides, Japanese are rarely at home; they are usually working or out socializing. The environmental health issues to the society have Japan improving their country by keeping the society clean. For instance, there is a display in all public areas with many recycling bins separated individually for bottles, cans, papers, and other unwanted items. Naturally, it has influenced many Japanese and foreigners to help conserve (Hays 1-21). Smoking is also prohibited in certain areas of Japan, but there are specific smoking areas that provide air-ventilation and trash bins for smokers. In addition, commercial businesses have small rooms with air-ventilation for smokers, such as in airports, restaurants, and most commercial buildings (CNA 1). Japan has globalized to certain exclusive traits in technological advancements, such as a robot that makes ramen noodle soup, bullet trains that run 300 kilometers per hour, and a cell phone network that can stream a live videophone call (Ganapati 1; Wormald 5). Japan also has many vending machines that sell perishable items including sake or sushi rolls, and non-perishable items such as a tie or underwear (Tech 1-12).
Both the United States and Japan are being influenced by cultural surroundings and modern consumerism. Both cultures have such different prospective of their modern society. The culture of the United States is still adapting to multiculturalism, but the Japanese culture clings to the past as generations pass on their cultural traditions. Whether it is pop culture or globalization to society, the United States and Japan are living their own way of contemporary life.