Located in the relative security and profitability of the International Settlements of Shanghai, on the Bund bordering the foreign enclave of Shamian in Guangzhou or in the British Colony of Hong Kong, areas controlled by foreigners but overwhelmingly populated by Chinese, these department stores in concept and origin were derived from the west, but their capitalization, ownership and management were exclusively Chinese. 1
In Japan at the turn of the century, the western-inspired commercial revolution was pioneered by the Japanese entrepreneurs of Mitsukoshi and its rival, Shirokiya, Tokyo's first and largest department stores, offering their version of 'modem life' or modan raifo. Retailing novelties or curiosities from abroad, along with local products, in a novel and foreign way - selling almost everything under one roof, departmentalized and displayed behind glass-counters for a fixed price - by the post-earthquake era (1923) they stood literally as beacons (multi-storied above the horizontal lines of the city) ofthe changes that
were transfonning all aspects of Japanese life, going 'the whole distance toward becoming what the Japanese had observed in New York and London', if not surpassing them (Seidensticker 1991:29-30). Merchandising, entertainment and culture, now 'unregulated and open to anyone (including, increasingly, women)', fused in these thriving centres (sakariba) in the new 'national' capital that had doubled its population to almost four million people between the Sino-Japanese War (1895) and the eve of the great Kanto earthquake (Smith 1978:69-71).