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.