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Pursuit of Year-Round Fun Puts a Damper on the Seasons

April 19, 1999

Although Japan enjoys diverse weather over the course of a year--with temperatures ranging from -4 to 33 degrees Celsius (25 to 91 Fahrenheit) in Tokyo--the impact of seasonal change on the pursuit of pleasure is diminishing. Summery clothing and tanning salons remain popular into the winter, while seasonal recreation activities like skiing and trips to the beach lose their appeal and seasonal product marketing campaigns, such as those for beer, become less effective. Businesses, recognizing people's desire to indulge in pleasures with no regard to season, are rushing to meet this new demand by creating products and services to match a seasonless culture.

Fashion's Keyword
The camisole, a thin, revealing shirt resembling underwear that is often worn boldly as outer garment, exploded in popularity last summer. But even after the first chill of winter the style remained in vogue. "For young women, displaying bare skin and slim body lines is a fashion statement that knows no seasonal distinction," comments the owner of a boutique store.

A peek into the women's clothing sections of department stores and specialty shops offers another cross-seasonal look--neatly lined racks of sleeveless turtleneck sweaters. This garment is winterish in that it covers the neck, but because of its thin, see-through knit material and absence of sleeves it is usually worn in spring or summer. Says one fashion journalist, "clothes that are hard to tell if they are for winter or for summer are beginning to catch on. Today more and more people want to wear the clothing they like regardless of the climate or time of year. That's why the keyword in the fashion industry this year is 'seasonless.'"

In another sign that people are looking for an endless summer, the warm weather tanning obsession remains unabated for many young men, who are turning in increasing numbers to salons in place of the sun during the winter months.

Year-Round Fun
This trend of turning a blind eye to the seasons, especially among young people, is not just limited to fashion but is infecting all modes of daily life--from food and drink to leisure.

Ice cream, formerly enjoyed primarily in the warm months, is now consumed year-round. Likewise, oden, a hot Japanese dish traditionally offered only in the winter, is now available at convenience stores throughout the year. Stores claim that even with the natural drop-off in oden consumption during midsummer, the product still pulls in 25% of its peak winter sales.

Beer is another victim of seasonless culture. Popular over the last 10 years, special brews of beer produced and marketed seasonally occupied as much as 3.7% of the total market in 1993, but by 1997 that figure had dropped off to 1.2%. One beer maker, which has ceased production of seasonal beers, comments: "It's no longer effective to market beer as a seasonal product."

Seasonally restricted leisure activities are also falling by the wayside. The Leisure Development Center reports that the number of people engaging in activities like trips to the beach in the summer and skiing in the winter is declining, while "weatherless" indoor activities like playing computer games and watching videos at home are on the rise.

Some analysts believe that because of increasing use of heating and air conditioning, activities restricted by season or temperature are taking a back seat to those that can be enjoyed throughout the year. Others say that the movement toward greater free expression, where people want to feel good, have fun, and enjoy their favorite tastes year-round, is contributing to this change. It is a bit ironic that this increase in individuality is overshadowing the distinctiveness of the four seasons that has colored Japanese culture for so long.

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.