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Beauty Up

Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics

Laura Miller
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 271
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  • Book Info
    Beauty Up
    Book Description:

    This engaging introduction to Japan's burgeoning beauty culture investigates a wide range of phenomenon—aesthetic salons, dieting products, male beauty activities, and beauty language—to find out why Japanese women and men are paying so much attention to their bodies. Laura Miller uses social science and popular culture sources to connect breast enhancements, eyelid surgery, body hair removal, nipple bleaching, and other beauty work to larger issues of gender ideology, the culturally-constructed nature of beauty ideals, and the globalization of beauty technologies and standards. Her sophisticated treatment of this timely topic suggests that new body aesthetics are not forms of "deracializiation" but rather innovative experimentation with identity management. While recognizing that these beauty activities are potentially a form of resistance, Miller also considers the commodification of beauty, exploring how new ideals and technologies are tying consumers even more firmly to an ever-expanding beauty industry. By considering beauty in a Japanese context, Miller challenges widespread assumptions about the universality and naturalness of beauty standards.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93884-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Preliminaries
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. Introduction. Approaches to Body Aesthetics and the Beauty System
    (pp. 1-18)

    Sachiko glided the metal rollers, which were connected by cable to an electromassage unit, over the backs of my legs. The sensation was ticklish but not painful. She was a Japanese beauty worker at an aesthetic salon and wore a reassuring nurselike uniform. After several passes with the roller, she applied a thick jelly and massaged it into my skin. My legs were then wrapped in revolutions of latex. She set a timer and left me alone for ten minutes, and then returned to remove the plastic and the jelly. At the conclusion of this beauty treatment for “leg slimming,”...

  8. CHAPTER 1 Changing Beauty Ideology
    (pp. 19-39)

    An advertisement for something called Super Bust Rich in the January 1994 issue of the women’s magazineCan Camcaught my attention. The ad for the tablets, priced at $150, promised, “For the person who worries about their bust, big news!” A Japanese model wearing a flowered pink bikini was accompanied by testimony from a twenty-two-year-old consumer: “My breasts were small, so during high school I had a complex. But this spring I had confidence and was able to get a cool boyfriend.” Here was a product for something that I had always thought was not a “body problem” for...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Aesthetic Salons
    (pp. 40-70)

    I arrived a bit early for my late afternoon appointment. Miss Ota, a chic young woman I had met on a prior visit, stood behind the counter in the reception area. She checked to see if one of the “counseling rooms” was available, and then asked me to wait in there. A second woman came in and asked that I complete three forms that were already waiting on the glass table. One was a registration form, another a chart asking for health background, and the last a survey of eating habits, lifestyle, exercise, and makeup: how often I used cosmetics,...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Mammary Mania
    (pp. 71-99)

    Browsing through a Japanese women’s magazine, I found an advertisement for a product called Angel Wing (figure 10). The copy announced, “I stopped being an A cup the day I got a present from an angel.” The item being sold for $220 was a set of battery-powered pink bust pads modeled on the body of a nude Japanese woman. Supposedly, any woman is able to increase her breast size in only a month if she uses the Angel Wing for less than an hour each day.

    There are three notable things about this advertisement. First, breasts without a few modest...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Body Fashion and Beauty Etiquette
    (pp. 100-124)

    I sat in my cramped housing in Japan, squinted at the microscopic hair on my arms, and wondered what the aestheticians thought as they applied creams and packs to my body. Did they go home and tell boyfriends and husbands about the “hairy foreigner”? My body is not particularly hairy, and I rarely spend much time on leg or underarm hair removal, one of the requirements for gender construction in my society. Despite this, within the context of the Japanese aesthetic salon, I felt much closer to my primate cousinPongidae paniscus. Salon aestheticians were constantly suggesting that I would...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Male Beauty Work
    (pp. 125-158)

    In 1992, the young women’s magazineWithfeatured an interview with actor Akai Hidekazu, who had just starred as Miyazawa Rie’s love interest in the hit television seriesTokyo Elevator Girls(With1992). Akai, a former professional boxer from Osaka dubbed the “Rocky of Naniwa,” epitomized in physical form a version of standard male attractiveness. His large, bloke-ish, somewhat doughy appearance suggested desirable male traits such as strength, dependability, resolve, and commitment. In a poll from 1987 asking single women what male characteristics they liked best, respondents overwhelmingly stressed inner personal traits over external physical attributes (PHP Intersect1987: 4)....

  13. CHAPTER 6 The Well-Behaved Appetite
    (pp. 159-175)

    Since 1979, the Nestlé company has sold the most popular liquid coffee creamer in Japan. A few years ago Nestlé launched a new product aimed at weight-conscious women. Called Krematop Super Slim, it is said to “make it easy to diet as a habit while enjoying full flavor.” This version has not only 40 percent fewer calories but some unusual ingredients as well. Added are garcinia, derived from a Southeast Asian fruit said to curb the appetite and to prevent the synthesis of body fat, and gymnema, from an Indian vine that purportedly inhibits the absorption of sugars. Nestlé thus...

  14. CHAPTER 7 The Language of Esute
    (pp. 176-194)

    An advertisement in a women’s magazine for something called Slim Sauna Metal Alpha shows a woman wearing what looks like a space suit in order to achieve weight loss. Like many other advertisements for body transformation products, this one uses English lexemes in both the roman script and the Japanesekatakanasyllabary. The product name is represented asmetaru alpha($$word$$ α), usingkatakanagraphs and the Greek alpha letter, and also as METAL α, using capital roman letters with the Greek alpha. The use of bothmetalandalphaimparts a scientific veneer to the product (as does the...

  15. CHAPTER 8 Esute Power
    (pp. 195-206)

    Beauty is not to be ignored. The Meiji Shrine gift shop sells aromatherapy goods and herbal beauty products, and in 2001, a Shinto shrine in Sendai selected its New Year maidens via a beauty contest competition. In this final chapter, I discuss the enduring power of the concept of esute and how beauty work gives renewed meaning to the cultural notion of self-improvement. The esute concept has leaked into other areas of culture and is often appropriated and stretched to encompass a broad range of phenomena, including baths and brothels. Industrial beauty culture sells the message that consumption of its...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 207-214)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 215-240)
  18. Index
    (pp. 241-256)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-257)