Publication – Shin-Ōkubo as a Feminine ‘K-pop Space’

SHOWBOX is just one of the many stores catering to female K-pop fans that have transformed Tokyo’s Shin-Ōkubo from an ethnic enclave to a K-pop space

I am really excited to announce that Kathryn Phillips and my paper exploring the transformation of Tokyo’s “Koreatown” of Shin-Ōkubo from an ethnic enclave into a “K-pop space” tied to young women’s consumer culture has been published in Gender, Place and Culture! Entitled “Shin-Ōkubo as a Feminine ‘K-pop Space’: Gendering the Geography of Consumption of K-pop in Japan,” the article represents a synthesis of Kathryn’s Master of Research dissertation and my own ethnographic investigation of K-pop fandom in Japan and is the result of two years (plus a bit more on my side) of careful fieldwork in this dynamic new consumer space.

We received a lot of input from various colleagues (and an extended and rigorous peer review) to develop one of the very first ethnographic accounts of K-pop fandom in Japan. Within the broader field of “Korean Wave” studies, one of our main interventions is to turn attention away from social media and look at where, how and why people consume K-pop related goods. We argue that K-pop fandom cannot be understood without emplacing it within a specific socio-cultural context and place an emphasis on the sociology and geography of its consumption.

Here is the abstract:

Studies of the global spread of South Korean popular culture have often neglected the role that space plays in this transnational fandom and consumer culture. Explicitly exploring the geography of Korean popular culture consumption in Japan, this article draws upon a walking ethnography of Tokyo’s ‘Koreatown’ of Shin-Okubo and interviews with selected consumers to reveal how ‘K-pop spaces’ within Japan have become tied to young women’s consumer culture. We argue that spaces of K-pop promotion and consumption within Tokyo are inherently ‘feminised’ due to their linkage to pre-established promotional strategies in consumer districts specifically targeting young women. Through an ethnography of Shin-Okubo and interviews with K-pop fans who regularly visit this district, we further reveal how this ‘ethnic enclave’ has been reconfigured as another ‘feminised’ consumer space that caters to particular behaviours and attitudes based in K-pop fandom. Overall, this article charts the emergence of ‘feminine’ consumer spaces in Tokyo and interrogates how the ethnic enclave of Shin-Okubo has transformed into a gendered space tied to Japanese K-pop fandom.

You can access the article here.

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