The 8 Standards Of Japanese Beauty

Ayase-Haruka-Smiling

One of the great things about being in Japan for as long as I have is that I’ve gotten to have some pretty fascinating discussions about Japan and why certain aspects of the culture are the way they are. A subject that’s been discussed and rehashed, time and time again, is the discussion on what makes a woman beautiful. Before you call me a chauvinist and put my head on a spike, please hear me out. I’ve had these conversations with more Japanese women than I have with Japanese men because it’s intriguing to hear how the conversation on good looks varies from person to person, and how the conversation varies from country to country. Beauty is a topic that pervades every culture and society.

Whenever I overhear, eavesdrop on, Japanese conversations bout aesthetics, my curiosity always gets the better of me. While minor things differ from conversation to conversation, some features, whether it was a man or a woman talking, are mentioned over and over again.

So here’s a list of the most common ones I hear, here list of the 8 Standards of Japanese Beauty:

1. LIGHT/WHITE SKIN

Ayase Haruka Smiling

Ayase Haruka is seen as one of the most beautiful actresses/models in Japan. She is known for having beautiful skin. I think I just drooled a bit…

While smooth, clear skin is considered a fairly universal standard of beauty, in Japan it seems the lighter the skin tone the more beautiful it is.

Where this popularity of lighter skin stems from in Japan is a mystery to me. Could it be historically linked to Japanese geisha? The 19th century, female entertainers who donned kimonos, white makeup and red lipstick accents; the former pinnacle of Japanese beauty and elegance.

Or maybe, in a bygone Japanese era, your skin symbolized they type of family you came from. Darker skin meant you were part of the lower, working class while lighter skin was characteristic of nobility? I am truly guessing here, but anyway…

Regardless of its origin, skin is a HUGE issue for women all over Japan* Pure, white, unblemished skin is extremely coveted here. Donald looks down at the skin on his typing hands… um well, maybe it’s different for guys…
*Not sure how much this standard affects the southernmost areas of Japan i.e.-Okinawa/Kyushu)

If you’ve been here in Japan during the summer, tell me if you can relate to this: You’re walking to the supermarket, it’s 10,000+ degrees outside, and you’re dripping sweat even in your your shorts and tank top. While you’re walking, a Granny Bike Ninja whizzes past you. A Granny Bike Ninja is a slightly older woman (late 40’s/ early 50’s perhaps) who has every piece of exposed skin covered during the summer. She’s wearing gloves that stop at the elbow, pants, sometimes a kerchief/scarf and a giant, black visor…

The reason you see woman so covered up on these hot summer days is primarily for skin protection. You know how tanning in America is considered cool? I don’t think it’s the goal for most women in Japan.

2. THE HIGH-BRIDGED NOSE

I remember having to get a CAT scan once at the Tsukuba University Hospital and as I was about the go in, one of the younger female nurses/trainees got super close to my face and told me “Sugoi! Hana ga takai.” She was admiring the bridge of my nose. I found this pretty interesting because in the U.S. I’ve gotten the occasional “big nose” comment, which I never really minded so much.

What makes a high bridge nose more desirable in Japan? If we just look at Western vs. Eastern cosmetic surgery patterns, we can get a bit of a hint. It’s always fascinating to find out what kind of cosmetic surgery people have done to make themselves more “beautiful.”

It seems that no matter where you go, people want a more “exotic” look. Some people take the word exotic to mean rare, but let’s change the word to “foreign” or “different” in this case. In the U.S. What to people usually have done to their noses? They get a skilled plastic surgeon to hack a their noses to make them smaller while fitting the natural contour of their faces.

In Japan, in Asia, it’s the opposite, and stronger, higher, slightly bigger nose bridge makes you unique, it makes you exotic. I’ve talked to women in Japan who have literally told me that they hate their noses because they’re too small! I guess every society has some type of physical appearance complex to deal with.

3. SMALL/SLIM FACE

After one particular Golden Week holiday (one of the important holidays in Japan), I remember asking a Japanese friend how his vacation was. He had taken a trip to Hokkaido and began to tell me about how good the food was and how beautiful the women were. Curious, I asked him why the women in Hokkaido were so beautiful? “They have beautiful, white skin and slim faces,” he replied. Though it wasn’t an incredibly in-depth discussion about what makes a women pretty here in Japan, I never forgot what said.

The slim/small face comment is one that I’ve heard countless times. So much so, that I would say it ranks as one of the top three beauty comments that I’ve heard.

I remember having a coworker once who I thought was gorgeous, but she was often down on herself because she was slightly heavier than the average Japanese women and had a round face. When anyone would tell her how pretty she was, she would kind of brush it off as something she couldn’t really believe.

4. THIN/PETITE

Do you know the expression “ぼんきゅぼん (Bon Kyu Bon)?” Well in Japanese it’s kind of like onomatopoeia but not exactly. This expression is used when talking about a woman’s body shape. The first “bon” symbolizes a large bust, “kyu” means having a small waist, and “bon” means having a large curve at hips. Bon kyu bon is the Japanese equivalent of an hourglass figure.

In Japan, I think the thin, slim, or petite woman is considered more beautiful the one with amazing curves. Of course there are exceptions and personal preferences, but I think in general this is the case.

This is probably the only standard on this list that’s a bit of a toss-up. I had this conversation with Japanese men and women and it seems that no two people will have the same answer. I recently asked a Japanese friend (woman) “Which is more popular? The hourglass figure? Or the slim/petite one? She said the hourglass figure.

When asking a male Japanese friend the same question, he insisted on the slim/petite physique. It’s kind of hard to tell which is generally more popular.

5. CURLY EYELASHES

Eyelash curler, metal

Every time I see one of these I cringe. I can’t be the only one who thinks it looks like a torture device.How do we know curly eyelashes are a standard of beauty in Japan? Here’s how. One of these days when you’re on the train you may come across a young lady who decides to have a full-blown makeup session on the train ride to work. When she finishes putting on powder, she may pull out a contraption that looks a lot like a torture device. This “device” was made to curl eyelashes into submission.Another thing that I’ve seen (not really a fan, though) is the women wearing the OBVIOUSLY fake eyelashes. Generally it’s younger women who wear them, or who sit on the train and glue them on, but if they look fake, doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?

Again some aesthetic features are universal and eyelashes ( are one of them. It’s why women here, women in the U.S., Europe and countless other countries use mascara to make thicker, fuller, curlier lashes.

6. THE DOUBLE EYELID

Since we’re in the eye area, we have to mention pink elephant in the room, probably one of the biggest ones on this entire list, the double eyelid! In Japanese they say “Futae (二重 – ふたえ) or Futae Mabuta (二重まぶた – ふたえまぶた)” and it’s another one of the big ones on this list. “

Why is the double eyelid a biggie? Well I’ve asked about this one, and the best answer I’ve heard was that having a double eyelid make the eye look bigger. I assume bigger eyes are more beautiful here in Japan.

Japanese women go to great lengths to get double eyelids. Many years ago a student of mine told me that she used to poke her eyelids with a spoon! A frickin’ kitchen spoon! There is also tape and double eyelid glue they sell in Japanese stores. And of course the double eyelid surgery is probably one of the more common procedures that Japanese women (Asian women) will have done.

The eyelid thing is one I don’t think I’ll ever fully understand. Personally, I’ve never looked at a woman and been like “Eww! Dude, she’s not cute at all because only has a single eyelid! There’s no way I’m dating her.” Just sounds kind of crazy to me.

7. LONG LEGS

Have you have snuck a peek a Japanese woman standing on train with a pair of amazing legs (it’s okay you can admit it, I won’t tell anybody. Women you can admit it, too). Well I think this is one Japanese women’s best assets. There are Japanese women with great legs!

The way I know great legs are important is because of how many women show them off regardless of the season. I’ve been sitting down, shivering, on the train in the winter and I’ve seen mini skirts short enough to almost show a bit of stockinged butt cheek. Sorry, but you’re not gonna hear me complain about that…not even a little bit :)

8. A POLITE PERSONALITY

They say beauty is only skin deep, but I disagree. A woman with a gorgeous exterior and a rotten core, or an abrasive personality kind of takes her down a few pegs on the ole attractiveness meter.

In Japanese culture, from the outside looking in, it seems as though personality and mannerism play a big role in how “beautiful” you are. An extremely poised/polite/elegant woman (think kimonos, hair pinned up, seiza (sitting on your heels), hands in the lap) is considered to be be more beautiful than say a wild and crazy, or brash one (think party girl, loud, drunk, or even rude).

While these are some of the typical characteristics I’ve heard here in Japan, beauty is relative. What’s attractive to me might not be attractive to you. What’s attractive to you may not be attractive to someone else. How “beautiful” someone is will be a debate that rages on until the end of time.

Japan’s Hippest Island

It was a bit disconcerting, being led to a bench in a pitch-black room and being told to sit there, wait, and let my eyes adjust until I could see. So I sat there for five minutes, maybe ten, worrying I’d be the first person in the history of this room who failed to see anything at all, when I finally made out a faint glow that gradually, ever so slowly, grew into an entire wall of light at the far end of the room. I was amazed I hadn’t seen it before, and when I was told I could get up and touch it, I groped my way across the room, arms outstretched, until I bumped into a rail barrier that prevented me from going any further, leaving me grasping nothing but thin air.

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Now this was an art installation with attitude! And it was only the beginning of a day on Naoshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea that’s devoted to cutting-edge contemporary art and architecture that lifts visitors out of the ordinary and propels them on a journey of discovery. As a precursor perhaps of contemporary art to come, Naoshima eschews the confines of the usual museum experiencs: spectators looking passively at paintings on a wall, in favor of installations that provoke thought and demand participation. Known as the Benesse Art Site Naoshima, it offers two striking museums, interactive installations housed in traditional buildings, and outdoor sculptures spread throughout the island in a combination of beauty both natural and manmade.My experience described above took place in Minamidera, one of four commissioned, permanent Art House Projects, which team artists with traditional architecture. Designed by renowned architect Tadao Ando, Minamidera is a starkly simple building of blackened cedar (a traditional method for preventing fire and infestation) constructed to house James Turrell’s Backside of the Moon. Kadoya, a 200-year-old farmhouse, contains a darkened room with an installation by Tatsuo Miyajima, who designed a shallow pool with 125 submerged colored numbers that blink on and off at various frequencies, each one representing a human life and controlled by an islander who determines the number’s lifespan. Go’o Jinja is an Edo-era shrine that has been transformed by Hiroshi Sugimoto with the addition of glass stairs and a narrow underground passageway that leads to a traditional tomb-like room. At Kinzo, a 200-year-old house remodeled by Rei Naito, visitors are allowed in individually (by reservation only) at 15-minute intervals so they can appreciate the building’s rebirth as an artwork.

Naoshima’s role as an art mecca began with the 1992 opening of Benesse House, a concrete structure designed by Ando and developed by the Benesse Corporation, an educational company based in Okayama. Perched on a hill with commanding views of the Seto Inland Sea, it contains an exclusive hotel, cafÊ, restaurant, and works both inside and out by Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and others. At Cai Guo-Qiang’s outdoor Cultural Melting Bath, lined with rocks imported from China and boasting excellent Feng Shui, visitors can bathe in herbal waters while taking in the view (bathing suites and reservations required).

Benesse House was joined in 2004 by the Chichu Art Museum, also designed by Ando. Reached via a pathway that skirts a pond and garden reminiscent of Monet’s garden at Giverny, the museum is again concrete, this one with circular passageways and various levels leading to only a few carefully chosen installations that occupy an entire room. In a room designed by Walter De Maria, a huge granite ball on a flight of stairs seems ready to roll at any minute and provides a focal point for gold-leafed bars occupying the church-like space. There are also several more works by Turrell, including Open Sky, set in a roofless courtyard and open for sunset viewings on weekends.But for me, the highlight remains Minamidera, where, you might say, I finally saw the light.

photo credit: Telstar Logistics via photopin cc

The Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO) Captured Alternatively

The Japan National Tourist Organization’s (JNTO) presence in an alternative fashion was captured at 60 Pier, Chelsea Piers in New York, Thursday November 1, 2007. JNTO was invited as a guest to The American Diabetes Association/Live the Good Life Gala 2007, where many sponsors and members gathered together to fundraise. The Association provided an entertainment theme of “Come Explore Seven Regions of the World.” Below are photos of dancers performing with music from around the globe. At the end of the evening, red goody bags were distributed, where JNTO donated 600 Yokoso! Japan pocket tissues (Yokoso means Welcome).

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Saeko Ichinohe (Japan)
Artistic Director/Choreographer
SAEKO ICHINOHE DANCE COMPANY
Website http://www.ichinohedance.org

A trio danced to Indian music after Japan’s kiku dance.
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Irish dance (Ireland)

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Salsa (South America)
To view a Youtube video of the salsa performance, click here.

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Belly dancing (Middle East)

The finale included African music with two various types of drums and two female dancers.

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The dinner after the multicultural dances.

T.I.

The Exhibition of Ei Kawakita in New York City

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Translator and Mr. Kawakita

October 18th, 2007 was the opening reception to Mr. Kawakita’s painting exhibition “Mu- On Space and Nothingness.” He has been an architect for many years, but has found a deep connection with architecture and painting. Most of his artwork comprises of spheres in the colors of black and white.

 

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Mr. Kawakita’s architectural buildings from his portfolio

As shown above in his portfolio, his architecture includes very modern design and simple straight lines. It was interesting to see the contrast of spheres in his paintings and lines in his structures.? It was impressive to see in his exhibition the perfect circles he created by thick brushes.

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Opening night for Mr. Kwakita’s exhibition at the Nippon Club

If you would like to read a more through introduction of his work, visit http://nipponclub.org/upcomingevents.php. His exhibition takes place 10/18/07 – 10/27/07 at the Nippon Club located mid-town.

Time: 10 am – 6 pm (Closed on Sunday)
Location: The Nippon Gallery, 145 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019 (Between 6th & 7th Avenue)
Fee: Free
Contact: info@nipponclub.org/212-581-2223

T.I.

Museum Paradise in Ito

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Dresses made of Kimono fabric at Izu Glass & Craft Museum

I first read James Clavell’s Shogun more than 20 years ago, so I’m rereading it out of curiosity, now that I know much more about Japanese history than I did back then. I’ve finished about one-third of the hefty novel’s 1,000-some pages, and I still find it fascinating for its depiction of life in Japan at the brink of the Edo Period. Its fictional characters are loosely based on real people and real events, including Englishman William Adams, who shipwrecked on Japan’s coast in 1600. Captured by local villagers and turned over to Tokugawa Ieyasu-the man who would become shogun-Adams went on to build Japan’s first western-style sailing ship in a village called Ito, on Izu Peninsula’s east coast. Adopting the Japanese name Miura Anjin-san and marrying a Japanese, this first Englishman ever to reach Japan remained in his adopted country for the rest of his life. I was in Ito a few months ago. It’s a pretty hamlet, hemmed in on one side by steeply wooded mountains and on the other side by the rocky Jogasaki Coast. Blessed with abundant hot springs and a pleasant beach, it has a lush, tropical atmosphere, with palm trees and flowering bushes that come as a surprise so close to Tokyo, less than two hours away. But what makes this town of 75,000 inhabitants especially unique is its astonishing number of private museums-more than 30 of them. I don’t think I could come up with a more bizarre collection of museums even if I tried.

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Izu’s famous Jogasaki Coast

I love going to museums, and one of the oldest and most well known in Ito is the Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art, which opened in 1975 and boasts an impressive collection of mostly Western artists, including Warhol, Picasso, Renior, Willem de Kooning, Miro, Kokoschka, Matisse, and Chagall.

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Warhol’s Marilyn at Ikeda Museum

My personal favorite is probably the Izu Glass & Craft Museum, with an exquisite collection of Art Nouveau and Art Deco decorative arts, including figurines, vases, perfume bottles, jewelry and more by artists like Galle, Lalique, Tiffany, Erte, and Daum. All were influenced by the Japonism craze that swept through the Western world in the late 19th century, apparent in the frequent use of dragonflies, water lilies, orchids, and other Asian motifs. Van Gogh produced several paintings that closely mirror Japanese woodblock artists like Utagawa Hiroshige, Galle used one of Japanese illustrator Hokusai’s carp drawings for his relief of a carp in a glass vase, and Vuitton’s famous monograms are said to resemble crests used by Japanese feudal clans. The museum also exhibits Western clothes that show strong Japanese influences, such as cocktail dresses made from the cloth of a kimono.

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Izu Glass & Craft Museum

Art lovers can also take in the Izu Lake Ippeki Museum with works by Jean-Pierre Cassigneaul, the Izu Kogen Ceramic Glass Art Museum with Chinese works, the Izu Lake Ippeki Museum of Perfume with early-20th-century American and European perfume bottles, the Bohemian Glass Museum, the Brian Wild Smith Museum with original pictures and books including Mother Goose, the African Art Gallery, and the Antique Jewelry Museum with Victorian brooches, rings, and more.

There are also special-interest museums galore, including those dedicated to the teddy bear, dolls, music boxes and automatic musical instruments, stained glass, antique clocks, ammonites, cats, bird carvings, antique tin toys, clocks, and angels. There’s a wax museum sporting the likenesses of the Beatles, Charlie Chaplin, presidents Lincoln and Clinton, Jesus and his apostles at the last supper, the Japanese Imperial family, former prime minister Koizumi, and baseball star Suzuki Ichiro.

But the weirdest museum of them all has to be the Ayashi Shonen Shojo Hakubutsukan, which translates loosely as the Mysterious Boys and Girls Museum. With a name like that, how could you not go? It’s packed to the rafters with a zillion items relating to Japanese and Western pop culture, including toys from World War II to the present, a Godzilla collection, clothing, sports memorabilia, album covers (from the Monkeys to Elvis), games, Marilyn Monroe dolls, oddities like a two-headed calf, dolls with a penchant for bondage and S&M (I am not making this up), and a house of horrors that is more grotesque than anything I have ever seen.

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Mysterious Boys & Girls Museum

All of which brings me back, in a roundabout way, to Shogun. Back in the days of William Adams and Shogun Tokugawa, it was fear of Western imperialism that prompted the shogunate government to outlaw the Christian religion and close Japan’s doors to outsiders for more than 250 years. Obviously, the ploy didn’t work in the long run, and global cultural exchange is so prevalent, that no one thinks twice about ordering sushi in Kansas or the ironic fact that almost all of Ito’s museums house collections of things Western.

As for Anjin-san, there’s a memorial dedicated to him at the mouth of Ito’s Matsukawa River, not far from where Adams built his ships. You can’t help but wonder what he or Tokugawa would think, if they came back to Japan today.

Futuristic A-Typical Kimono Fabric Costumes

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I enjoyed participating in the opening reception for Ms. Naruo’s design last night at the Nippon Club. The clothing emphasizes geometric stitching and the materials are of very good quality, including silk and more. I felt a new pop and a traditional Japanese sense from her artwork. Moreover, one could try these dresses at the Gallery, which is a great opportunity for anyone to view this exhibition!

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Shuka Naruo in green dress

Details about the exhibition:

Capa Wearable Art Alluring kimono fabric costumes by Shuka Naruo
For two decades, Ms. Naruo has been making unique articles of clothing from kimono fabrics that are not only beautiful in color, but are also light-weight, exquisitely assembled and seasonally versatile. Her innovative approach to sewing is considered cutting edge in the clothing industry and presents a whole new level of creative contribution to the design world.

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Sample dress

Date: 09/20/07 – 09/26/07
Time: 10 am – 6 pm (10 am- 2 pm on the 26th / Closed on Sunday)
Location: The Nippon Gallery
Contact: info@nipponclub.org/212-581-2223

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Artwork portfolio

M. Fujiwara

Yoriko Inakazu at The Nippon Club, Sept. 6, 2007

A special reception and opening exhibition was hosted last evening at The Nippon Club for Yoriko Inakazu. The exhibition title is known as “Harmonizing Traditional Japanese Painting with Contemporary Aesthetics.” The paintings themselves are quite large and have many layers to them.She paints with gold and silver on linen paper. A friend of mine mentioned how Asian art is more two-dimensional than Western art and you can see this style is noticeable in her paintings. In her paintings, she makes use of very little warm colors. The backgrounds include a black, gray and blue with a charging dash of color. I was most impressed that her paintings were on linen paper. The roughness to spread the paint gives it a raw and natural feel. The exhibition continues for another week, so pop in during lunch or after work.

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Translator and Ms. Inakazu’s artwork
A pair of water lily paintings in the background

Date: 09/05/07 – 09/14/07
Time: 10 am – 6 pm (Closed on Sunday)
Location: The Nippon Gallery
145 West 57th Street New York NY 10019
(Between 6th & 7th Ave.)
Contact: info@nipponclub.org/212-581-2223
More info: http://nipponclub.org/upcomingevents.php#100

T. Ishizuka