Recursion of ‘Japanese Beauty’ through Globalisation

by Eriko Maruyama

Back to ‘Japaneseness’

Since Japan opened its door to the world in the end of 19th century, Japan has been trying to surpass the Western world. In order to achieve modernisation, Japanese society copied Western style. As a result, from the 1960s and 1970s, Japan was successful in growing its economy and now, we are the one of the richest countries in the world. With economic modernisation, Japanese culture has been changing as well. I think that the Western culture has firmly established itself into Japanese society from late-1980s and 1990s. Simultaneously, the sense of beauty has changed as well. Through movies, TV dramas and fashion magazines, Japanese women were attracted to actresses and models in Western world, so they tried to copy the Western beauty. However, the more Japanese people imitate Western beauty, the more they realise the goodness of Japanese beauty. In this paper, I will argue how the sense of beauty has changed in Japanese women’s mind, and how they reinterpret the Japanese original beauty.

With the inflow of Western culture, traditional Japanese lifestyle disappeared and people adopt their lives into the Western style. From late 1970s, the ladies fashion changed dramatically in Japan. With the great trend of Twiggy’s mini skirt, Japanese women started to wear more Western fashionable clothes. In this period, Western TV dramas were broadcasted on TV in Japan, so there were more chances to get image of beauty in Western world. From 1990s, women began to imitate not only clothes but also making-up. Women yearned big eyes, long eyelashes, sharp nose and white and light skin of Western women. All cosmetic companies promoted the Western beauty and used Western women in advertisement and TV commercial. Moreover, when we open Japanese fashion magazines, there are many foreign models or half-western and half-Japanese models on the magazines. Cosmetic companies produced fake eyelashes and whitening skin care products and women buy them and ‘remake’ their faces into Western looking. Behind this trend, I think that Japanese women feel inferior to Western women. Thus, Japanese women have been influenced a lot by Western culture and they have been trying to get closer to the images of beautiful Western women.

However, this movement looks to have calmed down recently. Women look back at the goodness of Japan. This is because that the sense of Japanese beauty has been praised by people in foreign countries. For example, Kurara Chibana and Riyo Mori got Miss Universe. Some foreigners say that black hair, almond eyes and pure skin of Japanese women are so beautiful. Through these compliments, Japanese women realised the original beauty of Japan again. With this trend, some cosmetic companies changed the way of their promotion. Shiseido promoted ‘Tsubaki shampoo’, with the phrase ‘Japanese women are beautiful’. This marketing was successful. Thus, Japanese women have overcome the inferiority complex to Western beauty and begun to feel confidence as Japanese women.

In short, with globalisation, Western beauty came into the Japanese society and Japanese women copied the Western style. However, as globalisation proceeded further, the Western society realised the Japanese beauty and paid great attention to Japanese women. Japanese women are now able to notice the good points of their own beauty and feel confident as being Japanese women. Thus, globalisation changed the sense of beauty of Japanese women, but at the same time, thorough globalisation, Japanese women realise and reinterpret that traditional Japanese beauty is great.

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