I would not be myself if I did not watch the people around me. Among all people on whom my eyes stopped for at least a moment were men, women, and children. In spite of appearances, when it comes to men there is nothing to write home about. Just after their adolescence end, they all start to dress in identical suits, shirts, ties, and shoes. A trained, experienced eye would spot the differences in the material’s quality, cut, etc., but not mine. For this reason, for me, men were dressed pretty much the same. Before the era of being a corporate slave but after school (where there is a dress code) the Japanese tend to have colorful, custom hairstyles, and dress colorfully, but stylish. Children are going to school wearing their school uniforms, and they look really cute in them. Nevertheless, with women, as opposed to men and children, the situation is more complicated…
The so-called summer kimono (yukata) – beautiful! The lady also looks attractive 😉
Appearance does matter
Every woman I met was wearing makeup. Depending on the circumstances more or less natural, but it seems that without it Japanese women do not go out of the house. When I watched this make-up very carefully and deviously it turned out that all the ladies had false eyelashes. Thanks to that, their eyes were nicely brought into prominence but, in my opinion, those false eyelashes made a good impression only from afar.
Also in 2012 false nails were fashionable. The longer and more colorful and shiny, the better. Of course, not in every case – usually students allowed themselves such extravagance, sometimes on the verge of kitsch. Older women preferred more natural colors of nails with no major additions. In any case, Japanese women could boast with nicely manicured hands and healthy hand skin. It’s the same with hair – healthy, shiny, usually pinned up in a simple, impeccable hairstyle. Surprisingly, I met women with dyed hair only occasionally, while young men with dyed color were more common. Maybe just because their hairstyles were more flashy?
Naturally beautiful Japanese woman (by Alex Saurel)
Unfortunately, the dressing style of Japanese women slightly disappointed me. I expected a lot more frills, sweetness, delicacy, radiance. They never used too many accessories (except of those for mobile phones), did not wear glasses other than sunglasses. Their clothes were often ethereal, skirts and shorts very short, the necklines were seldom plunging. Shoes almost always were equipped with high heels or wedges, because Japanese ladies are naturally small. With my 165 cm I was almost always higher. What else surprised me in the Japanese women’s way of dressing is the fact that an incredibly large number of them (subjective impression) wore oversized shoes! I still do not really know whether this is due to the lack of appropriate sizes in stores, or is that considered to be “kawaii“?
“Kawaii” versus “Kowaii” – the pursuit of perfection
Although the two words differ only with one letter, these difference has large consequences. Should you ever like to compliment a Japanese woman, you ought to use for this purpose the word kawaii (cute, pretty), and not kowaii (terrible, horrible). These two words are often used in everyday language in relation to one’s appearance. Each girl and woman in Japan wants to be kawaii, and will use any means necessary to become cute.
Such views are possible only in Kyoto (by Kobbydagan)
An example may be the already famous orthodontic treatments to bend a little one tooth. Cheaper and more often used solution is using overlays that mimic this effect. Slightly crooked teeth are considered to be the domain of young, sweet girls, on which often Japanese women stylize (see ruffle, delicate clothes). By nature, they look long very young, not only because of make-up. Added to this should be a specific way of standing, which seems to me that it suggests shyness, namely: one foot is turned to the other in an angle of about 30 – 45 degrees. Some of the girls are walking in this manner all the time, not only standing. Imagine that you see a girl who walks down the street in this way, in too large shoes, so she shuffles her feet on the ground a little… When I got to Japan, but before we discovered the essence of this phenomenon, my husband suggested to me that some Japanese women have orthopedic problems. As it turned out, they did not – they just walk in a weird manner. Is it kawaii or already kowaii – I am unable to judge 😉
The cult of white skin
High standards of beauty
The Japanese operate many parts of their bodies: eyes, ears, nose, breasts, jaw, cheekbones. The ideal of beauty is European, so the lighter the skin, the more it is considered attractive. Body hair is not welcome, although by nature Asians do not have too much body hair. In addition, an important role is played by height, hence the incredibly high heels. The optimal goal is about 160 cm: the girl is high, but it is also a safe limit, because the girl can then put high heels and will not be higher than her partner (it is important to be lower). The brave and wealthy achieve this goal using the limb lengthening surgery. It seems to me, however, that such procedures are rare, as many Japanese women substitute their height with high-heeled shoes. I can’t tell whether the girl who stands before me has had some surgery or not, but the Japanese see it right away. And although Japan eyes are turned towards the canon of European beauty, they also have their own beauty standards.
Ochobo is treated very seriously. It is the belief that small mouth is the culmination of feminine beauty and a sign of good manners. Eating in public is not popular in Japan, but women almost never eat in public because of ochobo. In addition, a small, delicate face is considered the most beautiful (kogao, where the head is the 1/8 of the full height). It is not well seen if a lady shows strength – women take even a cup of tea with both hands. Moreover, childish behavior and childlike, innocent look, plus the use of a high tone of voice are often considered attractive.
Ochobo – how a certain network of Japanese restaurants dealt with it?
An unpopular behavior is demonstrating knowledge and skills in front of men. A woman should be modest and not exceed in any respect of her men. When I approached a pair of Japanese to ask for something, the girl has always remained silent and allowed the man to take the initiative. When there is no man around, they speak English really well. The men in Japan sometimes jokingly speak about their wife as a “stupid wife”. I think you should know, however, that Japanese women are in no way stupid…
Japanese women behind the scenes
Unfortunately, I did not meet any girl or woman during my trip to Japan, but I learned many things through unofficial channels. Japanese women are strong and rule at home. Although more and more of them graduate from prestigious universities and make careers in corporations, the role of mother and housewife is still very popular and highly valued by the society. What’s more, as a result of changes in the economic situation of Japan, being a housewife is no longer a standard role but a privilege and prestige, which can only afford those families where husbands earn well. Although the majority of women work before marriage and quit their jobs after the birth of their first child, when the children get older – some of return to work, at least part-time.
Make a bento yourself! 🙂
Men continue to bring salaries to home, and their wives give them some pocket money for their needs. I was shocked when I found out that after 40 years from publishing the book of Mrs. Janina Rubach – Kuczewska is still true – the household budget is still managed primarily by the wife. A woman has the first and last word in the family, but goes the last to the bathroom. Japanese women really care about their children, and make sure that they received everything the best. They care about the education and well-being of their children, due to the absence of the working husband. They attend courses of bento making, which is due to a quiet ongoing competition with other mothers about whose child has a nicer lunch. In addition to home and family, both men and women really care about the development of their interests, especially during retirement. The evidence can be easily found when visiting the parks in Tokyo – and that will be the topic of my next post 🙂