Bigakuseizukan – Who Are the Beautiful Students?

by Lilia Yamakawa

A friend asked me to go with her to a party sponsored by a website called Bigakuseizukan, Picture Book of Beautiful Students. Both the photographers and the “beautiful” students they photograph are students from Japanese universities. Since have been talking about people’s concepts of “beauty” in our Race & Ethnicity class, I thought this would be a good opportunity to do fieldwork and see what this group considers attractive, what the trends are, why students agree to be posted on the website, and why this website is popular.

In class, we discussed what beauty is and found that a majority considers one type of appearance as beauty. Like the contestants in the Miss Korea contest that we saw in class, I expected most of the students at the party to be similar: skinny chins, double eyelids, small noses. I thought there would be many people with the Japanese kawaii style, with the same brown hair, same length bangs, and wearing the fluffy white and pink cutie skirts.

It turned out not to be what I expected! Most of the people there had different styles: many different hair colors and styles, different facial characteristics, many different body types, with totally different styles of clothes. Kawaii wasn’t especially big. I was both disappointed and relieved by what I actually saw. I was in a way disappointed that I couldn’t see an expected trend with my own eyes, and also relieved to find that there were many kinds of beautiful students there.

I think this has something to do with the popularity of the Picture Book of Beautiful Students website. The models are students who might actually go to your school, and they all look different. When you look at their snapshots, you might feel that they are close to you and possible to reach. This sense of closeness would be hard to have if you are looking at a model of a magazine or on TV. Bigakuseizukan’s uniqueness is that it doesn’t show only one type of beauty considered as perfect. It really shows lots of different types of students.

Another question I had in mind was why do people say yes to being photographed and having pictures posted of them online? And why do they attend such a gathering? I had a chance to ask around yesterday. I got a lot of answers, but basically they fall into three categories. In the first category, there were many students who were running for beauty contests, such as Miss Ritsumeikan, Mr. Japan and Miss Universe. These types of people answered they did it to get their name out and remembered through the Bigakuseizukan. The second group said they tried it for their personal record and their future career. It will look good when applying for a job, which might have a lot to do with your appearance, such as newscasters and announcers. The third group was more vague, and they said there was no reason not to try it or that they just enjoyed modeling for fun. One girl said, “Well, everybody posts their selfies on Twitter and other sites like that, so why not post a better picture of yourself taken by a photographer with a real camera?”

One more thing I expected to find was that everyone would be outgoing. Instead, there seemed to be all sorts of types of personalities at the gathering, and some people seemed very quiet and reserved. I think you could probably say that they all had some sense of confidence in the way they look, though.

This fieldwork only lasted three hours, but if you were interested in finding out why people in a certain group are judged to be attractive, I think studying a group such as the Bigakuseizukan would be a good method. It would be necessary to find more things that the models have in common and to question both the beauties and the photographers in more detail.

Women’s Consciousness of Skin Lighteners in Japan

by Mai Kusakabe 

In South Africa, there are a lot of women who want to make their skin color lighter because they try to get better status and become more attractive. Then, how about Japanese women? What are they thinking about their skin color? Actually, we can see a lot of cosmetics and drugs to make their skin lighter in pharmacy. So in order to reveal what they are thinking, I did questionnaire about skin color, and ask ten Japanese girls answer it.

girls

 

The first question of my questionnaire was which girl do you prefer, and which is more attractive for you? And why do you feel the girl is more attractive?

Nine out of ten girls answered that they like or want to be a girl on the left, who looks Caucasian. Another girl said she liked the middle one, who looks more Japanese. She said middle one seems the healthiest of the girls. Most girls have the same answer, and the reason why they choose left girl is almost the same, because she has white skin! She looks Caucasian! So she looks beautiful!

The second question was have you ever used skin lighteners? And do you do any efforts to make your skin lighter?

To this question, every one answered Yes. This result is kind of interesting. Every girl seeks to get lighter skin somehow, for example, using face lotion and take a supplement including a component to make skin white and using sunscreen to prevent their skin from ultraviolet rays. Thus usually Japanese girls do something to keep or improve their skin color.

The third one is do you use a sunscreen? Yes or No. And for the person who answered Yes, is it for which reason, for health or for keeping lighter skin? Two girls answer No, and the rest answer Yes. Five of them said it is for keeping lighter skin, two of them said for both and one said for health.

The fourth one is why do you do such efforts? Why do you want to be lighter skin? There are two types of answer of this question. First type is that they think or believe white skin is beautiful. Second type is that they said everyone insist white skin is beautiful, so I think so too. The biggest differences between two are their opinion influenced by others or not.

So what kind of factors influence Japanese girls’ opinions of skin color? The options are TV, advertisements of cosmetics, magazines, the Internet, status, public opinion and other. The choice which attracted most votes is TV (six points), following public opinion, magazines (four points), advertisements (three points), the Internet (one point). And there is no vote to status. From this result, we can understand that most people don’t realize that there is connection between skin color and status in Japan, for example trying to get lighter skin is to become more attractive, this is kind of trying to get better status. In addition their idea that white skin is beautiful is mostly influenced by media. One girl said my favorite model has white skin, so I want to get white skin like her. Indeed popular models and actress have lighter skin, and many girls long to be like them. Lighter skin has come to one of major factors to be like admired woman.

Thus, as we can see from this questionnaire, Japanese girl prefer lighter skin. And most of them do some efforts to make their skin lighter, for example, about 70% of girls use sunscreen for keeping their skin color lither. They don’t think it’s for their health, just for their own beauty. They regard white skin as beautiful. The biggest factor of their preference of skin color in Japan is media which give us images of popular models and actress who have lighter skin that makes us long to be like them, and give us impression that lighter skin can get more popularity and attractiveness. The important thing is that it is not always right. Sometimes it makes us wrong decision. So we need to judge whether it is right or not.

Who is described as an attractive person?

by Sakiko Yasumi

Every single month I buy fashion magazines to check what this season’s trend is. I recognize myself as one of the fashion industry’s consumers. The magazines I always buy are imported from US or UK to check the lovely clothing and make-up products introduced in the magazines. Of course all of fashion models appearing in magazines I have are foreigners. If someone had asked me this question before taking this class, “Are you yearning to whiteness?” I might have said “probably, because I think they are beautiful”.

In today’s Japanese society, it is no exaggeration to say that we are not watching TV programs and checking fashion magazines without seeing ‘hafu’ models (in this essay, when I say a “hafu”, it means the mixed person with Caucasian and Japanese). “Hafu” fashion models have been required for TV industries, and girls watching TV programs and checking fashion magazines started to yearn to hafu models due to their “attractive-looking”. Here are three questions: what is “hafu”?, why are Japanese yearning to whiteness?, and what is the definition of “attractiveness” for people in Japan?

According to Wikipedia, The word hafu is used in Japanese “to refer to somebody who is biracial, i.e. ethnically half Japanese”. This definition is that hafu people have two identities but each identity is forced to cut in half to fit in one person, then the person with mixed races becomes considered as a “hafu”. Because Japan is an island nation, had closed the door to foreigners almost for 200 years, and forced Ainu and Okinawa to assimilate into central Japan, there were few mixed people of Japanese and other countries’ ancestries. I think its Japan’s past foreign policy is a main cause of a stereotyped concept which many of Japanese still have.

To answer the second question: “why are Japanese yearning to whiteness?”, we have to think with the third question, “what is the definition of attractiveness for people in Japan”. I found the typical idea of attractiveness for Japanese from the reading “Seeing Faces, Making Races: Challenging Visual Tropes of Racial Difference” by Terry Kawashima, who mentions that girls with “the round eyes and shortish, smallish noses with vertical height are defined as symbols of attractiveness” in Japan. This type of thinking is sticking into our head, and it is a cause of our one-sided idea of attractiveness and having the feeling of yearning to whiteness which is applicable to our general ideal of attractiveness. This could the reason why hafu models become greatly popular in our society, especially for girls.

However, the concept of person’s attractiveness has been changed through reconsidering of Japanese beauty. From 2006 or 2007, two enterprises, Shiseido and Kracie, started to deal in the hair-care products which emphasize Japanese beauty called “TSUBAKI”and ”ICHIKAMI”. These two products stress their concept “Japanese women are beautiful” by using many famous and popular Japanese actresses and models. It has been highly effective. I think this is one of the best ways to make people to realize that Japanese beauty promotes our attractiveness.

To sum up, I don’t mean that whiteness is not attractive, but instead of claiming that, all kinds of skin color, hair style/color, face, body shape are attractive. Thus, there is no need for Japanese women to pursue and yearn to the whiteness. Being yourself and having confident of being Japanese women are the best.