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On Men With Purses, Scrawny Girls, Tanning and Other Fads

Date Posted: 2000-07-07

I’m no trend watcher by any means. Nevertheless, spending a great deal of my off-work time in the local community and not having access to cable TV (and thus compelled to watch the local broadcasts), I find myself observing the passages of trend in the lives of the Japanese on a daily basis.

Perhaps even more so than with people in other parts of the world, the Japanese seem to follow wholesale trends with a passion, whether they be fashion, activities, or what have you. What’s even more amazing is how quickly these trends come and go. The motto “here today, gone tomorrow” is probably the best description of trends in the Japanese social scene.

Based on what I’ve seen in hangouts like shopping malls and restaurants, as well as in TV commercials and shows, I’ve compiled a short list of what’s hot and what’s not in Japan. Here they are:

WHAT’S IN: Skin Whitening.

Judging by the advertising campaign on TV as well as the posters in the cosmetics section of department stores, the pasty white look is what Japanese women are after this year. Skin-whitening creams and products are hawked almost shamelessly. And with names like “Double White,” the manufacturers make no bones as to what their products are intended to do.

WHAT’S OUT: The Tanned Look.

Last year it was “in” to have a tan. Everyone from TV celebrities to bubbly teenage girls was sporting the bronzed look. There was even a program on TV detailing the extreme measures some Tokyo high school girls took to keep their skin tanned during overcast and rainy days. But now, with everyone going for lighter color skin, the tanned look is out. Thankfully, so is the gaudy neon blue eye shadow that many teenage girls were wearing to go with their tan.

WHAT’S IN: Men With Purses

OK, to be politically correct, they’re called pocketbooks, but they still look like clutch purses to me. Anyway, more and more Japanese men are apparently finding that having pockets in your pants isn’t enough. I’m told that with the need to carry daily necessities like inkan stamp, basic toiletries and the like, the pocketbook has become the panacea for a lot of men. I still say that if God had intended for men to carry purses, he wouldn’t have given us pants pockets...

WHAT’S OUT: High Sole Boots

With the media pumping out negative publicity about the effects of high-soled shoes and boots, it was a foregone conclusion that those items of fashion would not last past the summer. Blamed as the cause for a plethora of maladies ranging from bad posture to tragic accidents, the wearing of high-soled boots have become synonymous with the word “dangerous.”

WHAT’S (STILL) IN: The Scrawny Look

The starving supermodel look is the goal of just about every Japanese girl, thanks to an infusion of ads and commercials featuring toothpick-thin models and actresses. I’m told that the desired look is that of hollow clavicles, which has become some kind of a benchmark by which the girls gauge the success or failure of their effort to get thin.

WHAT’S IN: Kickboards

Although they’ve been around for eons, Japanese youngsters have only recently discovered what a kick it is to scoot around on a kickboard. Kickboards are a safe and civilized way for kids to have fun on wheels. Fretful parents no longer have to worry about their children getting injured performing skateboard antics. I just hope that Japanese adults too will soon discover what Europeans and Australians have known for years: kickboards are a great way to commute to and from work and school.

WHAT’S IN: Any Apparel With English Phrases On It

For some reason, the Japanese are fond of T-shirts, sweatshirts, and jackets emblazoned with English phrases. Some are short expressions like “let’s have some fun” or “let’s enjoy the outdoors together,” etc. Others, though, can be two to three sentences long and quite trite. I saw one on the back of a jacket the other day, and it read like something from a children’s storybook. The man wearing the jacket had all the trappings of a tough guy, engineer boots, huge, chained billfold sticking out of the back pocket, and about a hundred keys dangling from his belt loop. I got the impression if he knew the meaning of the words on the back of his jacket he wouldn’t have bought the jacket in the first place.

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