Japan’s Empire of Scents: Commerce, Science, and the Modern Senses of Health and Cleanliness
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CitationTu, Feng-en. 2019. Japan’s Empire of Scents: Commerce, Science, and the Modern Senses of Health and Cleanliness. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation presents a material history of modern olfactory experience and explores the ways in which the industrial production of smells impacted on the daily experience. Taking Japan as the focal point, this study traces the technologies for producing odors and the flows of aromatic commodities. By so doing, it highlights the intertwined relationships between commerce, science, and the transformations of the senses. As it pursues these lines of inquiry, the dissertation also charts the formation of Japan’s modern fragrance industry, which has endeavored to manufacture artificial smells that eventually pervaded modern life since it was established, and how it became a major force in shaping the sensory experience of modern consumers.
The dissertation is divided into three part, each composed of two chapters. The first two chapters in Part I will examine the sensory experience of modern cleanliness by offering two case studies. Chapter 1 looks at the social history of scented soap in modern Japan, exploring how this new hygiene commodity was introduced and popularized in a country that is known for its long-standing bathing culture. Chapter 2 focuses on the new sensory experience of oral hygiene brought about by modern dentifrice and its fragrant ingredients. Part II offers an in-depth investigation of the history of mint and explores the role this fragrant plant played in the making of the modern sensory experience of health and cleanliness. Chapter 3 traces how the application of minty flavor developed through the chewing gum and confectionery industry in the United States. Chapter 4 follows the subsequent demand for menthol and menthol products in the world’s pharmaceutical market and explores how this phenomenon facilitated the expansion of Japan’s mint industry in Hokkaido. Part III turns to examine the development of Japan’s fragrance industry that was learning to adopt modern chemistry in the creation of a new sensory reality in the early twentieth century. Chapter 5 shows the growing importance of chemical synthesis in the modern fragrance industry and how this new knowledge and expertise was transmitted to Japan. Chapter 6 spotlights the role of Japan’s imperial expansion in supplying the material resources for the growth of modern Japanese fragrance industry, and explains how the making of a modern olfactory experience became unexpectedly intertwined with, and inseparable from, Japan’s colonialism in Taiwan.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42029479
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