The expression on this chap's face mirrors the one that took hold of mine when I first learned that within the large shops of 18th century Edo (Tokyo) there was no such thing as window shopping. Ladies of that period did not spend Saturday afternoon trying on every pair of size fives in the Japanese equivalent of Marks and Spencer's shoe department while their husbands sat snoring amongst the fur hats. There was no wandering around Echigoya Kimono Store at the weekend, picking everything up and then putting it back down before finally buying a scarf that you didn't go in for and will most likely never wear. No. Ladies of that time were expected to go out knowing exactly what they wanted.
Suruga Street, from One Hundred Famous Views of Edo by Hiroshige, depicting the renowned Echigoya Kimono and Drapery Store (on both sides of the street) that is now Mitsukoshi Department Store. Pub. 1856.
You arrived at your chosen store, removed your footwear, stepped up onto the matted floor of the main sales room, then told the clerk exactly what you'd gone in for. Alternatively, you went in unsure and the clerk was expected to guess at what you needed. He'd keep on going back and forth to the shop's store room, bringing out one sock, sandal or silk purse after another, until you found something of interest... or expired from old age.
Suruga Street, from the series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji by Hiroshige, with Echigoya Kimono and Drapery Store on the right. Pub. 1858.
High-born ladies did not even have the opportunity to visit the stores even if they did know exactly what they were looking for. The clerks from the stores would call on them at home and take along a selection of their wares. If a customer didn't like anything that the clerk had to offer, he'd have to go back to his store and return with a better selection. Had I lived in 18th century Japan, given that I never know what I want when I do go shopping for clothes, and even when I do think I know what I need I am usually wrong, I would never have had a thing to wear (which, oddly enough, is still the case today).
The Echigoya again, from the scroll Kidai Shoran (Excellent View of Our Prosperous Age) of 1805. Artist unknown.
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