Killing time before the Sumo tournament in next door’s Ryōgoku Kokugikan kicks off is best done in the Edo Museum. a monumental building designed by Kikutake in the early nineties. Apart from the beautiful and plentiful models of old Edo inside, I found the 20th century section especially interesting. Here, Japan’s post-war economic miracle is brought to life with three exhibits that were “sacred” in the 1950s: a TV, washing machine and refrigerator.
Actually, the exhibit gets it slightly wrong I believe for the three sacred objects of the 1950s were the vacuum cleaner, washing machine and fridge. The 1970s equivalent were the “three C’s” – car, cooler (air-con) and colour television.
At any rate, all six objects signify Japan’s consumption growth and the common family’s partaking in the economic miracle. All of these were highly coveted status symbols that gradually became more affordable. The plaque in the exhibition reads:
While the starting salary of a male college graduate was 10,000 yen [in 1955], a television set cost 200,000 – 250,000 yen, the washing machine 20,000 – 30,000 yen and the refrigerator 50,000 – 60,000 yen. These rather expensive electronic products rapidly spread to the homes with the economic growth and the decrease in cost due to their mass production. The saturation level of television, for example, which had not even reached 1% in 1955, had risen to 54% in merely five years.
The original three sacred objects (sanshu no jingi) refer to the three imperial regalia – the mirror, the sword and the jewels.
During West Germany’s “Wirtschaftswunder”, the equivalent signs of this new boom were the “Fresswelle” (literally “eating wave”) and a new wanderlust, i.e. German tourists flooding the beaches of the Mediterranean.