March 26, 2010

The Umbrella Has No Clothes

Just one out of the 100 million cheapie clear plastic umbrellas Japan goes through in a single year. Readily available (costing about 1 dollar) and safe to pair with any outfit, they are favored by people of all ages. Yet the clear plastic umbrella also symbolizes the strange dichotomy between Japan's eco-awareness and rampant consumerism: at once so focused on improving the efficiency of its products ("making things better...for the future"), yet content with treating others as disposable and buying more, more, more. It's hard to imagine this situation changing anytime soon. 10 years ago, clear umbrellas were a trend. Now they're ubiquitous. It's raining and you forgot your umbrella? Don't worry, just buy one at the conbini to tide yourself over. After all, it's only 100 yen. Flimsily made, these umbrellas crumble easily under the elements and are carelessly discarded, becoming not just an eyesore but a potentially dangerous one. Walk along any main street in Tokyo after a storm and you're bound to see umbrella skeletons tangled in bushes and blown against trees.

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