Why the Past Captivates Urban-Dwelling Japanese

Dave McCaughan From Tokyo

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When you live in Japan, you often end up talking about it having the world's oldest population profile. But getting old does not mean becoming senile. Sometimes it just means maturity.

One of our McCann Pulse investigations found that everyone from teens to 70-year-olds felt older than they really were, but that aging had the advantage of making them realize what is important. They also thought their role models were getting older. Fifty is the new 40 in Japan. But what is really interesting is a shift in values from an emphasis on "freshness," where just being new is good enough, to "maturity" and the desire for more of a story that shows care and considered development. Japan is coming to grips with change, the need to find its place in a globalizing world, and at the same time, Japanese people want to feel they can get more out of life.
Dave McCaughan
Dave McCaughan is Tokyo-based director of strategic planning at McCann Erickson and a Tokyo-based trendspotter.

So we see a move from "external" to "internal" growth, with hobbies and experiences that seem to add meaning to life, such as last year's fad among young women for coloring books, or the revival of the copying of sutra, or ancient texts. The words are important, but it's more about peace and tranquility: The accompanying incense, the formal mode of sitting and the act of writing all combine to provide a discipline and soothing of the soul perhaps missing in a hectic urban world.

Depth also matters. There is less interest in greater size, volume, practicality, speed and freshness and more desire for comfort, high quality and lifestyle improvement. It's not surprising that around 25% of young mothers have adopted LOHAS (lifestyles of habitat and sustainability) approaches that appreciate the environment across all purchase decisions. We even see it with the interest in lunar-calendar guides that are appearing at OB-GYN offices to help expectant mothers guide their pregnancy and child through life in tune with nature's cycles.

This rediscovery of traditional values is gaining ground. Anyone who has traveled to Japan has seen the fancy traditional cloth wrapping used in days of old to both cover and carry items of all sizes. Now it is being revived as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic bags. Even the simple rice paddy is making a comeback. A "revive wet paddy" campaign pushes the idea that it is a way of protecting water, land quality and wildlife that has evolved around intense farming in the last 2,000 years.
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