‘Ethnography’ in Japanese Corporate Activities: A Meta-anthropological Observation on the Relationship Between Anthropology and the Outside

  • Yasunobu Ito
Part of the Translational Systems Sciences book series (TSS, volume 4)


The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of the consumption and usage of ethnography, the chief methodology of social/cultural anthropology, in Japanese industry. Nowadays, ethnography is not exclusive to anthropology. As an investigative method, it has been gaining popularity in industry such as engineering, design, marketing and so forth. I argue that depending on the phase and context, ethnography can be a commercialised research tool or an authoritative source for advertising. My focus will be on the ways in which ethnography, the mainstay of anthropology, is redefined and valued in the business context. Ethnography as a ‘new’ technique – not new, per se, but relatively new for business people – is regarded as a most promising technique which approaches/uncovers hidden needs and leads to new products and services which excite customers/users. At the same time, some idiosyncrasies of Japanese firm will be shed light on and will be examined with the relation to the usage of ethnography. Moreover, the implicit theme of this chapter is the anthropological inquiry of a changing discipline (i.e. anthropology) from a historical perspective, with attention to the way in which Japanese anthropology could cope with these trends in industry.


Business People Japanese Firm Business Context Behaviour Observation Artisan Skill 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Japan 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST)NomiJapan
  2. 2.University College London (UCL)LondonUK

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