Challenging Cultural Stereotypes about Japanese Everyday Life
The multi-sensory, immersive exhibition “At Home in Japan”, held at the Geffrye Museum in London in 2011, enabled Western audiences to gain a better understanding of everyday life inside contemporary urban Japanese homes, overturning deep-rooted cultural stereotypes that continue to depict Japan as the quintessential, exotic Other. Through this exhibition, Daniels’ ethnographic research has had a wide cultural and educational impact on multiple audiences, enhancing their understanding and appreciation of Japanese culture, and demonstrating the fallacy of the traditional minimalist stereotype with which it is commonly associated. The reach and significance of this impact is substantiated by the large numbers of visitors to the exhibition, the majority of whom responded extremely positively to the experience; the success of the schools’ programme, community outreach workshops, curatorial tours, and study days; and the extensive enthusiastic coverage in traditional media and on the internet. Moreover, through its innovative uses of photographs and objects, the exhibition has been able to take museum practice in a new direction, encouraging in other museums similar approaches to enriching visitor experiences.
The exhibition and its associated educational activities have directly increased public knowledge, understanding, awareness and appreciation of Japanese life and culture among individuals from a broad range of ages and backgrounds, through various school, education and community outreach programmes
Dr Daniels extensive ethnographic research in Japan covers various important topics within the anthropology of material and visual culture, including: gift exchange; the commodification of religious forms; the material culture of luck; amateur photographic practice; and the anthropology of (domestic) space and the built environment.
The Japanese House: Material Culture in the Modern Home
Daniels’ findings challenge widespread stereotypes about Japanese aesthetics by revealing the messiness and contradictions of everyday domestic life. This is the first academic study, based on living for a prolonged period of time with Japanese families inside their homes, to elucidate the implicit but interconnected logics of the use of space and the use of material culture within the home. The Japanese House shows how domestic practices change through the seasons and how they have changed over time, highlighting the importance of backstage activities such as storage, cleaning, and bathing in the reproduction of social life.
Research was funded by the Geffrye Museum Exhibition Budget; Sasakawa Travel Fund; and Japan Foundation Research Grant.