Tag Archives: Japan

Japan’s cosmetics makers advance makeup’s role as medical camouflage

Makeup is commonly used to make one’s face more attractive, but it can also help conceal scars and other skin irregularities as an extension of medical treatment.

Cosmetics makers have developed products designed to camouflage birthmarks, discoloration, and post-operative scars, as well as chromatosis and swelling resulting from the use of cancer drugs and other medications.


Shiseido Co., Japan’s biggest cosmetics company, leads the market in this field, having begun to develop and sell products to hide skin problems more than 60 years ago.

Maki Tsunoda, a 56-year-old housewife in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, visited the Shiseido Life Quality Beauty Center in the Ginza shopping district recently because her face turns a reddish hue in the colder months.

A staff member at the center recommended a skin-care foundation and gave her advice on how to use it.


Tsunoda’s problem is a side effect of drug treatment she began to receive in 2013 following the discovery that she had ovarian cancer. Eyebrow loss is among other adverse effects.

“I was shocked when I realized how my appearance would change, so I rushed to find out what I could do about it,” Tsunoda said. Learning that the side effects can be masked by cosmetics, she visited the Shiseido center.

“I can rediscover the person I lost since falling ill,” Tsunoda said with a relieved smile.

The Shiseido center prepares makeup plans for individual visitors free of charge based on the cosmetics they use and other data they provide. Shiseido also sells cosmetics suitable for skin disorders via some 440 shops and medical institutions across Japan.

Nonprofit organizations also assist people who would like to know more about using makeup for skin irregularities.

For example, the Medical Makeup Association in Tokyo, which has instructors with skin disorders of their own, promotes makeup products in cooperation with Pias Corp., a cosmetics maker in Osaka.

The MMA offers a one-hour free consultation at its centers in Ginza and Umeda, a major commercial district in Osaka, and has some 120 advisers around the country.

Fumiko Oyama, a 67-year-old housewife in Yokohama, has learned from the MMA how to cover up patches of colorless skin, or depigmented macules, with makeup.

“I want to spread the word to people with the same problem,” Oyama said, revealing that she had been avoiding jobs requiring workers to wear company uniforms because she did not want to reveal her skin condition by wearing a short-sleeved shirt.




Muji Is Asia’s Most Underrated Skincare Line

Muji, Japan’s great housewares chain, has started to make inroads in the US, with stores proliferating on both coasts. The chain opened its first stateside store in New York’s Soho in 2007 and has added 15 more locations since then (the latest outpost opened in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, just this month).

Defined by its minimalist designs and ubiquity, Muji’s closest amalgam might be Ikea, but with way, way less furniture and way nicer housewares, plus clothes and books. But unlike a trip to Ikea’s mouse-maze warehouse — a slightly sadistic way to test tensile strength of any couple’s relationship — a sweep through Muji, with its calming earth tones and the dreamy hiss of glowing aroma diffusers, is more meditation than mental ward.

While less celebrated in the US than some of the store’s organizational products and clothes, its affordable skincare selection is equally zen, not to mention wildly popular in Japan. Think of it as Marie Kondo-ing your beauty cabinet.

The brand’s four skincare lines are coolly delineated in easily identifiable shades: sensitive(clear/white), natural (forest green), balance (light peach), and aging (copper brown). The wording on the skincare packaging is completely stripped down to the product type, like “light moisturizing milk” or “gel cleansing.” There is no romantic copy or big beauty promises. Muji has a “no-brand brand” ethos, so you won’t even see its own damn logo on your cleansing gel.


The modest non-marketing approach may explain why it doesn’t have a more prominent reputation. It’s easy to walk by the skincare section on your way to pick up some sheets, as I did for years. But despite that, a slew of its products have reached cult status among beauty Japanophiles.

Japan is famous for its cleansing oils, and Muji’s cleansing oil is one of the best on the market. It’s light and emulsifying, unlike some of the thicker olive-oil based versions out there, and yet it can remove waterproof Japanese mascara and still leave skin soft and hydrated. (Confession: I also love using it to shave my legs. It leaves my skin ultra silky but doesn’t leave a dangerous oil slick in my tub or give me ingrowns, like some more comedogenic oils.) And the light toning water — a watery hydrator that softens skin and shares nothing in common with the US’s astringent toners — is also a favorite of sensitive skin types.


In the skincare tools section, its cotton pads — stay with me — are also a hero product. In Japan, cotton pads are commonly used with hydrating toning waters as DIY masks, and big-time brands, like Shiseido, all put out their own versions. Instead of buying a ready-made sheet mask, you douse some pads with the skin-softening toning water and then plaster them all over your face. Muji’s soft, peel-able pads are stand-out for just that. They don’t shed, and they transfer product effectively from cotton to face when used as a mask.

Another favorite for fans of good, affordable design is the the eyelash curler, and it’s only $7.50. And among makeup artists, the goth-like black cotton buds are a low-key standard — their non-bendy tips make them ideal for applying creams and colors.

If you live in the Northeast or in California, you can swing by a store and play with the testers there, but all of Muji’s skincare products are also available online. The biggest bonus: The generously portioned full sizes only run $12 to $24, but you can purchase any product in a travel size for about $7 or $8 before committing to a full bottle. Finally, a little zen in the spendy, cluttered world of skincare.



Japan’s budding fashion rental services proving popular with working women, moms

Satoshi Amanuma recalls his wife standing in front of her closet full of clothes before they went out, muttering she had nothing to wear.

“She had many more clothes than I had,” Amanuma said. “Then I realized most of them looked quite similar.”


Amanuma realized that, like his wife, many working women and mothers with young children don’t have much spare time to shop for themselves or keep up with new looks, so they end up choosing the same styles.

That is when Amanuma came up with the idea of a business renting out women’s wear. And Aircloset Inc. was born.

As sharing services like Airbnb and Uber set up shop in Japan, the fashion industry followed suit, offering people the option of renting clothes instead of buying them.

Aircloset is one such company, renting out everyday clothes for women for ¥9,800 a month.

“I want to offer people, especially busy women who don’t have spare time, to buy clothes, more opportunities to encounter new clothes and apparel brands, and to enjoy fashion more,” said Amanuma, CEO and founder of Aircloset.

The company rents out three articles of clothing that its fashion stylists selected based on customers’ registered preferences. Subscribers can hold onto the pieces as long as they wish or send back the styles they don’t want for an exchange. Users don’t have to wash the returned clothes because dry cleaning and delivery charges are included in the fee.

Fashion rentals used to be mainly for special events, such as wedding parties and graduation ceremonies. But in recent years, new services like Aircloset have popped up, changing people’s perception of daily wear — rent rather than own.

And they are steadily attracting customers.

Aircloset’s registered members now number about 120,000, up from 25,000 in January 2015, a month before service’s official launch, according to Amanuma. Members are in their mid-30s on average.


As the customer base grew, Aircloset expanded its apparel brands to 300 from 80 in 2015, he said.

Hundreds of returned clothes are inspected at its distribution center in Kanagawa Prefecture before they are dry-cleaned at seven factories located nearby. The cleaned clothes are then rechecked before being stored, and made available to be rented out again.

Each item is tagged with a barcode to track how long and how many times it had been rented. The information is used for pricing if customers wish to buy their favorite rental pieces.

Toshihiro Nagahama, a chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute Inc., said the domestic fashion-sharing market has huge potential to expand along with other sharing services.

During Japan’s bubble economy in the 1980s, luxury brand apparel was seen as a status symbol for the rich, Nagahama said. But that mindset has changed in past decades as people grow less inclined to spend money to own not only luxury brands but also other products, including cars, he said.

“Fashion rental makes sense for such people. If you don’t have a desire to own things, it’s cheaper and more efficient to rent a wardrobe to update your fashion,” Nagahama said. “The fashion rental market will grow.”

Tokyo-based market research firm Yano Research Institute predicts the entire market size of the domestic sharing industry, including fashion, will expand to ¥60 billion in fiscal 2020, up from ¥28.5 billion in fiscal 2015.

Such expansion of new rental services, however, could deal a heavy blow to already ailing traditional retailers, Nagahama said. Apparel retailers need to think of ways to adjust their business to the changing landscape of the industry, he said.

Rental services for daily outfits are not the only robust business in the industry. A luxury bags rental service is also flourishing, as more people find that they enjoy borrowing and switching up designer bags rather than spending thousands of yen to own.

Laxus Technologies Inc. launched an app for renting out top-brand luxury bags — such as Chanel, Fendi and Hermes — for ¥6,800 a month. Like Aircloset, customers can change bags as often as they want.

Since its launch in 2015, the number of members has grown steadily to 13,000, according to Kei Babazoe, vice president at Laxus.

To increase its current stock of 18,000 bags from 52 brands to keep up with the growing demand, the firm recently started calling on luxury bag owners to send bags that are just gathering dust in their closets. Laxus will clean and mend those collected bags and store them in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room for free. If those bags are rented out, the lenders will get ¥2,000 a month.

Seeing growing potential in rental services, apparel maker Stripe International Inc. launched an app named Mechakari in September 2015, to rent out its own private brands for ¥5,800 a month.

Similar to Aircloset, Mechakari users can rent three articles of clothes of their choice and return them when they want to receive a new batch. But unlike many other fashion rental services, Mechakari rents unused brand new clothes.

Returned clothes are dry-cleaned and those that pass its screening will be sold on its online shop as used clothes.

Masaki Sawada, head of Mechakari department at Stripe International, said they launched the service partly to expand the apparel business.

“Apparel, in general, is about making and selling clothes. And that’s it. But if you look at automakers, like Toyota, they not only make and sell new cars but also maintain, rent out and sell cars,” Sawada said. “We want to make the fashion business like that.”

Noting young people are becoming less interested in purchasing clothes these days, Sawada said, so Mechakari wants them to get into the new rental service.

“In order to attract young people, we need to increase the number of users,” and make renting clothes a part of daily life, Sawada said. “We want fashion rentals to take firm root in society, and to become part of our culture.”



Easy Makeup Ideas To Create That Perfect Geisha Look

Geishas have always been mysterious, yet extremely pretty. What they really do is always quite misunderstood, but there is no doubt about the trail of awe and enticement that they leave behind them. Let’s take a look at all there is to know about the Geisha makeup.

Origins Of The Geisha Makeup:

A certain theory suggests that the origins of the pale face makeup are routed through China. The Japanese courtesans are said to have adopted this look from the Chinese. It was between 794 A.D. to 1185 A.D. during the Heian rule, when this look was first used. Considering the influence the Chinese had on the Japanese at that time, it is safe to say that they would have adapted it from them. The women from the Heian era would mix rice powder with water, and smear it on their faces like a foundation. They would shave off their eyebrows, and paint thick, but straight, eyebrows in black. These eyebrows were drawn slightly higher than the usual placement. Their lips were then painted red. Originally, women finished off this theater look by staining their teeth black. To do this, they used a mixture of oxidized iron and an acidic solution. The blackening of the teeth was done only until the Meiji era, but the Kabuki actors and the training Geishas (Maiko) still use it.

This charismatic look of the Heian era was taken on by the courtesans in an attempt to revisit the poise and elegance of the golden era.

The Adaptation Of The Geisha Makeup:

The Geishas set themselves apart from the courtesans in the pleasure quarters. They wore less vibrant colors and more decorated clothes. They also wore simpler makeup and less elaborate hairstyles compared to their colleagues. This was because of a law that was enforced to make sure there wasn’t any competition between the Geishas and the other courtesans. But surprisingly, this law worked in the favor of the Geishas, who looked smarter than the rest. Over the years, their makeup got bolder and so did their hairstyles and kimonos.

Typically, at the start of the career, it is a must for the newbies or the Maikos to wear the white makeup every day. It is the Geisha, who takes the new Maikos under her protective wing, or the Okasan (the owner of the home that the Maikos are a part of) and teaches them how to do this. Once the Geisha is three years into her profession, her makeup gets lighter, and her bun gets simpler. In three years, she matures beautifully and then she is known by her talent, and not her appearance. For events that are more formal in nature or for dances, she wears heavier makeup and a katsura or an elaborate wig.

How To Get The Geisha Look?

Getting that perfect Geisha look is quite a tedious process. First, a waxy oil-like substance called bintsuke-aburais applied to the face, using a brush on the face, neck and chest. This substance works like an adhesive to the white foundation that follows. Next, the white foundation is applied all over the face, neck and chest, leaving a “V” shape naked, at the nape. The nape is considered the focal point in Japanese eroticism. Therefore, leaving that “V” bare enhances the sensuality. The day when the Maiko turns Geisha, a “W” is left bare on her nape. These bare “W” and “V” are always veiled, and usually symbolize what men long to discover in them.


Once the foundation is set, the eyes and the eyebrows are painted. This is a tedious job and needs a steady hand. A single mistake could lead to starting the process all over again. The eyebrows are primarily painted black, with a tinge of red. Traditional makeup used charcoal as the blackening agent, but today, many cosmetics are available specifically for this purpose. Then come the eyes. These are painted black, with a touch of red too. As the new Geisha matures, the amount of red in her makeup decreases. To finish the look, the center of the lips is painted bright red with the help of a small brush. Traditionally, the color was extracted from safflower that was infused with water. Once the color was added to the lips, it was covered with crystallized sugar, to get that lustrous look.

Now that you know how to go about this look, it is time for you to create your own “Memoirs Of A Geisha”.



Tokyo Street Fashion Gets the Blahs

The kids aren’t all right. A cocktail of social uncertainties has provoked the youth culture fashion in Tokyo’s Harajuku neighborhood to reach a beige fever pitch.

Observers say Instagram selfies have made street peacocking an unnecessary pursuit. Cyberbullying has made young, impressionable style-boppers hesitant to try risky looks. And Olympic construction — where Tokyo-ites are sometimes directed a mile underground to exit major subway stations — has made Japanese avant-garde ephemera (platform shoes, diaphanous skirts) untenable for pedestrian life.

Said designer Mikio Sakabe: “Before the Internet, people felt like they could be special in their own way. They could be a punk or Lolita and do as they wish. Nowadays it’s very difficult to be special. If they want to be themselves, they can’t. Now they have to be with the society.”

Tokyo-based fashion designer Yoshikazu Yamagata, of the brand Writtenafterwards, has noticed the slowdown. “It’s a little bit quiet right now, 10 years ago the street fashion was more energetic,” he said.

Japanese schoolgirls would at one time relish the opportunity to change out of their uniforms and into individualized, eccentric looks. No quantity of necklaces too excessive, no hair color too eccentric, and no petticoat too full. But the counterculture-inclined have now exchanged their colorful outlandish preferences for streamlined looks in neutral tones.

An after-school-hours visit to the Laforet Harajuku youth mall was a study in this more restrained aesthetic — the biggest quirk observed was the Christian rock tunes blaring in each shop. Mall-goers were largely dressed in pared-down clothes that exhibited a globalized sensibility. K-pop-type vinyl miniskirts, sweatshirts purporting Brooklyn roots, and white Adidas sneakers are their new mix.

Trendsetters outside mainstream high school culture layer silver-tone workwear, wide-legged dark denim and music merch Ts for a dark, reflective mood. Makeup has become matte and beige with small red flourishes, further invoking an attitude of restraint.

So why does Tokyo’s reputation as the world capital for youth street fashion hang in the balance? Here, designers, trendsetters and stylists discuss the root of the city’s newfound demure style and speculate about what could come next.


Just a year ago, the 16-year-old style star Mappy preferred brightly colored dirndl skirts, velvet dresses and platform heels, and would jump at the opportunity to shop. She now moseys through stores with an air of boredom, and relies on denim, simple tops, trenchcoats and camouflage cargo pants. “I feel like many more young people in Tokyo have become shy with fashion,” she said, blaming the new simple trend on social conformity. “Young fashionable people now only want to wear the same things as their friends.”

Yamagata feels this is the result of cyberbullying: “Because of social media, if you wear something really flashy, they kind of attack you, so people don’t want to be too flashy anymore. People in general, that’s one of the things we’ve noticed. The Internet bullying.”

A recent study conducted by Osaka University deduced that between 20 and 30 percent of Japanese high school students have been victims of cyberbullying, while another 8 percent admitted to bullying themselves. Those numbers are quickly rising by double-digit percentiles each year, according to multiple studies.

Said Sakabe: “Before, people wanted to be personal and have individual taste. But now, if you walk in Shibuya or Shinjuku wearing individual clothes, you feel ashamed. There is a sense of what’s correct or incorrect fashion.”


The present mood in Tokyo is glum. City centers, including Shibuya, have been ripped up for renewal. Dozens of cranes loom high in the city skyline — working in harried tandem to construct towers, train stations and department stores in preparation for the city’s 2020 Olympics. The Japanese government projects that the sporting event will boost the country’s economy by a total 32.3 trillion yen, or $284 billion, over the course of a decade.


Japan’s exported cute style Kawaii, as reported by WWD in Tokyo last year, is dwindling from the city’s style lexicon after decades of influence. The cultural phenomenon had infected everything from fashion to food and cleaning products. But as Kawaii loses its footing, a new movement has failed to take its place — leaving the city without a fringe cultural movement to push its fashion forward.

At a Kenzo event in May, a performance by the pop singer Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was evidence of this shift. The singer — who in 2012 was anointed Kawaii Ambassador of Harajuku by the Mayor of Shibuya — has been in rebranding mode as of late, “searching for her new thing,” according to a source. At the Kenzo event, Kyary wore a streamlined fuchsia dress to perform her Kawaii-era songs — as if held in a holding pattern between restraint and her prior brand of hyper-feminine expression.

Said Ambush cofounder Yoon Ahn: “The political and economic environment, it’s uncomfortable for them, but it’s not chaotic enough to push people to do crazy things. It’s in the middle — so they are doing what feels safe and comfortable.”

Fashion consultant Yusuke Koishi, who works closely with Comme des Garçons, noted of the ongoing shift: “As followers of Kawaii culture get older, and graduate school, the majority of them become absorbed into the conservative fashion mainstream. However, younger generations are following something different. I think Tokyo youth scenes may be in the middle of a chasm of transition.”


The transition Koishi speaks of could be the result of a slowed economy and the quick-change nature of fashion in the social media era.

With annual salaries in Japan either remaining stagnant or decreasing, spending among households of those under 25 years old has dropped by more than 30 percent since 2009, according to government data. More than 60 percent of high school students, university students and twentysomethings feel it more preferable to be viewed as frugal rather than spend-happy, according to a Dentsu Innovation Institute study. Less than 40 percent of Japanese Millennials are positive about their financial future, according to a study conducted by employment agency ManpowerGroup.

Wealth distribution has steadily decreased among the country’s middle class since the implementation of Shinzo Abe’s Abenomics policy, which relies on trickle-down economics as a mode of growth. Economists worry that this trend could see many middle-class households declining to a low-income classification.

The trend extends to consumption, with one source noting its effect on the Japanese fashion system. Explained Ahn: “In Japan, the middle class used to be a lot wider and this gray zone produced a lot of good, Japanese brands. Recently the economy has been going down, and fast fashion has pushed this old model out because of price. Fast fashion means that anyone can buy something and look decent. People got safer and safer, there isn’t as much of an effort to search for new and cool things.”

Social media has afforded the onetime isolated island nation a sense of inclusion — with Tokyo-ites now privy to a global pulse in real-time. The punk movement took a decade to reach the Japanese capital, making Tokyo its final counterculture stopover. But now, the Japanese adapt to visual trends in synchronicity with fashion boppers in London, Berlin or New York.

Ahn feels that this has had a negative effect on the unique fashions for which Japan was once known: “Because we are an island, people used to import ideas and make them better because there was a limited flow of information. Now with Instagram it’s easy to duplicate looks in real-time. People became lazier, and you see that throughout Asia.

“People used to get dressed-up to get noticed and have their photo taken. The Internet killed that — they don’t have to go on the street, now they can take a selfie and get more attention.”


Social media, as is similar in many other parts of the world, has desensitized the Japanese from luxury and consumption. A scroll through the Internet is a portal to luxury’s widespread distribution.

Said Sakabe: “Yesterday I went to Barneys New York in Roppongi. I didn’t want to buy anything, the clothes were like dead bodies for me. There are so many clothes and so many brands, but it’s always the same. No one wants to buy that, it’s just shop stuff. That’s not fashion.”

Even Kawaii, which started as a do-it-yourself subculture, has proliferated into an easily consumable movement, with shops dedicated to the cutesy aesthetic stationed in each mall — thus neutralizing its individualistic, subculture beginnings.

What comes next, according to fashion designer Noriko Nakazato, is an intellectualized fashion that cannot simply be purchased. As fashion continues to churn out product at a rapid clip, an intelligentsia approach to style has begun to appeal to those who seek a fashion that feels special.


Tokyo Street Fashion Gets the Blahs

Super Mario cosmetics are coming to Japan

Japanese cosmetics maker Shu Uemura recently revealed a holiday beauty line patterned after — of all things — the Super Mario Bros games. It’s the crossover you never wanted and never expected, and it’ll be out in Japan in November.

According to Kakuyasu Uchiide, Shu’s artistic director, the connection between the two brands is based in … well, I’m not sure exactly:

This collection is not so much about creating, but it is about playing. I want people to be able to play with their individual style. I really want to show what is our spirit, our DNA, our creativity. That’s the only way to realize what Mr. Uemura wanted to do, which was to strive to link art with cosmetics, to link art with beauty.

The line doesn’t exactly look like anything Mario-related, other than the designs on the packaging. The eyeliner has a stamp on the end which looks star-shaped, and I suppose a few of the eyeshadow shades could recall the bright colors of Mario’s earliest outings — but it could just as easily be inspired by anything else under the sun.


This had to have been approved by the higher-ups at Nintendo — I refuse to believe Mario could appear on so much as a postage stamp without Shigeru Miyamoto’s personal thumbs-up. Still, if you’re going to pattern a cosmetics line after a Mario character, why wouldn’t you go for Princess Peach … the character who actually wears lipstick and mascara?

I will admit, though: I really want that Super Star-patterned train case.



Japanese Youth Are Fearlessly Embracing The Genderless Fashion Movement

A new video from i-D is taking a look at a group of Japanese youth who are embracing the trend of genderless fashion in their lives.


The video features each individual sharing a personal narrative of their own journey to embrace fashion beyond binary gender terms, and what the idea of genderless fashion means to them.


“I saw this Korean model on a shopping channel, and I really liked him. He was really cool,” one participant in the video shares. “It wasn’t until later that I realized she was a girl. I really admired her, and that’s how I got into fashion. I don’t mind people calling me a ‘genderless’ girl. In fact, I’m happy that they do.” 


Other people in the video reflect on their own experiences navigating the world as people who present their fashion in a genderless way. The story of one person intersects with issues of homophobia, and people assigned male at birth violating codes of masculinity.


“When I wear tight trousers, they sometimes call me ‘faggot’ or they say ‘isn’t he gross?’ as I walk past,” they say. “But if you care about other people’s opinion you become boring, so I’d rather stand out and be different.”




While this video captures a specific moment in time for a group of people embracing genderless fashion in Japan, the trend of genderless fashion is not necessarily new. HuffPost’s 2015 series “FABRICATIONS” explored American fashion designers whose work transcends binary notions of gender in their fashion designs.


Japan also has a historical relationship with gender that transcends the male/female binary, with the country embracing a “third gender” option in the 17th century called “wakashu” prior to Western intervention into their culture.



Watch the “Beyoncé of Japan” Apply Her Concert Makeup

Widely hailed as the Beyoncé of Japan, Naomi Watanabe does spot-on impressions of Queen Bey down to every last stiletto stomp, sashay, and hair flip. And when it comes to makeup, the actress and comedian demonstrates the same dexterity. Ahead of a performance in Tokyo, she provides a play-by-play of her “stage face” with her signature brand of self-deprecating humor.

After slipping into a terry cloth robe and twisting her dark mane into a towel turban, she slithers and gyrates into frame, bringing her face up to the mirror. “You can see all the zits, right?” she says, pointing to her chin area with no-holds-barred candor. After misting her face with Estée Lauder’s Micro Essence mist, she smoothes foundation over her complexion and blends. “My powder foundation is so gross, sorry,” she says with a playful wince, gesturing to the well-worn compact. Then, she pulls out a Shiseido eyeshadow palette (that’s also seen better days), dabs her fingertip into the pinky bronze pigment, and sweeps it over her lids.

Following a cheeky hair tossing interlude, she continues building her high-octane gaze by pressing on red and blue glitter from the cult favorite Glitter Injections X-Ray Palette and tracing cat-eye wings along the outer corners of the eyes. “I make a lot of weird faces,” she explains while raising her eyebrows, sticking out her tongue, and sucking in her cheeks to ensure that her freshly filled-in brows (which are lightened with a blonde gel) will move with her wide range of emotions. For full-on lashes, she swipes mascara on before applying thick falsies with windproof glue and slapstick aplomb.

“I really love Kylie [Jenner]’s lipsticks,” she confesses as she paints her lips with the young mogul’s matte liquid formula. Once the deep red mouth is complete, make no mistake—Watanabe is feeling herself. “I’m looking sexy,” she says before twirling, shimmying, and headbanging around the room. Despite the language barrier, one thing’s for certain: Her glitter eyes, bold lips, and comedic chops are universal.

Source: Vogue


Body Paint Makes For Colorful Japanese Fashion

Welcome to the world of “ishoku-hada” (異色肌), which can mean “unique skin” or even “remarkable skin.” It’s inspired by the otherworldly characters who appear in anime, movies, and video games.

Note: Some images might be NSFW.

“For a while, I’ve been doing ishoku-hada cosplay,” Miyako (top photo), who works as a DJ and model, tells Kotaku.

[Image courtesy of Miyako]
[Image courtesy of Miyako]
[Image: mud_skii]

“I’ve longed for the interesting skin tones you see in video games, anime, and movies,” Miyako says.

Miyako came up with the idea to do a ishoku-hada shoot with a bunch of friends at the American Bar & Cafe Ren in Tokyo’s Kabukicho. Each woman painted herself a different color: orange, pink, gray, yellow, aqua, purple, etc. (Note that the black paint could inadvertently cause offense in the West because of the history of black face; however, that is not the intent here.)

[Image courtesy of Miyako]

“This shoot was really influenced by American comics, the Japanese artists Junko Mizuno, and Rockin’ Jelly Bean.

[Image courtesy of Miyako]
[Image courtesy of Miyako]

The look does appear reminiscent of “Yamanba” fashion of the early 2000s, which a style of dress and make-up in which heavily tanned Japanese women typically had pink and blonde hair, donned pastel and Hawaiian-inspired clothing, and wore panda style make-up. This is no accident, because Miyako says that fashion style is also an influence.


Ditto for video games, which are home to numerous ishoku-hada characters.

While Phantasy Star Online 2 seems to be especially well suited for ishoku-hada, these colorful characters have existed for a long time in anime. In recent years, the red-colored demon character Scanty from the anime Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt has inspired cosplayers to cover their bodies in red paint. Hollywood movies and American comic books have done the same in the West. Avatar did it with blue paint, and before that, there were Marvel mutants like Mystique. In both parts of the world, there is a long tradition of colorful characters. Here, that tradition is now intersecting with fashion.

[Image courtesy of Miyako]

“This past Halloween, I did an in-store event where I dressed up like a devil, painting my whole body red,” says Miku, who was decked out in purple for the recent shoot. This time, covering herself in stage make-up took around three hours. “I needed help painting my back, though, because I couldn’t do that myself,” Miku says, chuckling.

[Images courtesy of Miyako]

While Miyako and her ishoku-hada crew are just now getting noticed online for their colorful creations, appearing on the Japanese version of The Huffington Post, don’t assume this is part of a mass Japanese fashion trend. It’s not. Even when there were yamanba wondering the streets of Tokyo and Osaka, that was never mainstream.


However, it became widely covered and promoted by Egg Magazine, a niche but influential fashion periodical that’s no longer in publication. The mainstream Japanese media also covered the Yamanba trend, and it’s starting to cover ishoku-hada, which could spawn imitators and actually turn this into a niche fashion.

In the meantime, ishoku-hada is already inspiring fan art. “I enjoy transforming myself, so I think it would be great if ishoku-hada caught on,” says Miku. “I want to do it again, too,” says Sonorama, who was painted in orange for the shoot, while Cherry Sunaga, who was in yellow, says she’s keen to do ishoku-hada next time she’s dancing.

Ishoku-hada hasn’t started a brand new subculture in Japan. Yet. This is, however, certainly a colorful start.



Anti-aging products lift Japan cosmetics shares to record highs

Increased tourism and an aging society are two of the biggest waves cresting over Japan, and thanks to both the country’s cosmetics companies are seeing stock prices buoyed to all-time highs. 

Market attention tends to focus on the rising number of tourists for boosting cosmetics stocks, but local consumers cannot be counted out, especially for upscale products.


And these stocks are likely to remain popular with investors for some time as more women enter Japan’s workforce and the country gets older, with anti-aging products, such as creams to counter wrinkles, expected to continue selling well. 

Total market capitalization of Japan’s four main cosmetics makers — Shiseido, Kose, Pola Orbis Holdings and Noevir Holdings — came to 3.27 trillion yen ($29.6 billion), up 340% from five years ago.

Women’s social advancement has also boosted demand for luxury brand cosmetics. While the monthly disposable income of single women in workers’ households only grew by 3% to 226,795 yen in 2016 from 220,039 yen in 2012, beauty product expenditures jumped more than 10% to 5,332 yen from 4,816 yen over the same period, according to a household income and expenditure survey.

Japanese research company Fuji Keizai estimates that the market for basic skin care products costing 6,000 yen or more has grown by 9% to 430.5 billion yen in 2016 from 393.4 billion yen in 2012. The market is expected to grow more than 2% this year from the previous year’s forecast.

The rise of anti-wrinkle products has also lifted cosmetics stocks in recent months. The pharmaceutical affairs law allows companies to tout only the efficacy of diminishing the appearance of wrinkles. But now they can advocate a product’s ability to ameliorate those crow’s-feet or furrows in the brow. 

Pola Orbis Holdings’ Wrinkle Shot Medical Serum, which was released in January after obtaining approval from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare last July, became the first wrinkle-improving quasi-drug. The cream’s sales came to 6 billion yen in the January to March quarter, 30% higher than an initial target.

Other cosmetics manufacturers are also conducting research and development of wrinkle-improving products. Shiseido plans to release a cream to counter wrinkles later this month.

If these products go mainstream, companies are hoping demand will not wane — even in the face of price increases — and earnings will grow.