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Facial cleansers now latest fad

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1999-04-16

Do you have any idea what 75 percent of Japanese High school girls regularly keep in their bags? Text books, you say? A picture of a boy they admire? Well, maybe they do. But that's not the issue here. The answer is facial cleansing tissues, or better known by those 75 percent as "aburatorigami" in the local vernacular.

Aburatorigami is a by-product of making gold-leaf, a traditional Japanese handicraft. In the process of making gold-leaf, "furuya-shi" paper was used and beaten with a slice of gold to make the gold as thin as, well, a piece of paper. Beating furuya-shi with a heavy metal object causes the paper's fiber to constrict and its absorbency to be reinforced. After serving its role as furuya-shi, the paper was then used as aburatorigami, or oil absorbing tissue. In the Edo Period (1603-1867), those papers were given to Japanese dancers (maiko) in Kyoto, as a small present by the gold artisans who hung around the red-light districts. It is here, in the dimly lit alleys of the Edo Period, some say that aburatorigami became popular among Japanese women.

The popularity of aburatorigami is perhaps a sign that the ancient predilection for maintaining clean, clear and glowing skin is still well and truly alive today. In fact, today's Japanese women continue to maintain a radiant complexion, since smooth, flawless skin is considered the epitome of Japanese beauty. So, aburatorigami is a Japanese female's secret weapon in her battle - if a battle is necessary - to make her skin look beautiful.

Conversations such as "What aburatorigami are you using now?" or " This brand is really good" can usually be heard among females in bathrooms and offices. Aburatorigami from Kanazawa, famous for its gold-leaf products, has a good reputation, and it was one of the few shops where you could buy the tissues. However, until recently, the only way to buy was by mail-order and that proved expensive as one needed to order large amounts.

But the days of mail orders and expensive accounts are gone with the opening of Okinawa Hakuza, the island's one and only store specializing in aburatorigami, located in the Naha OPA Shopping Center.

Regular, Aloe Vera, and Silk tissues are available in both large and small sizes and there's also a color variation for the regular type. Samples are also available. Prices range from ・320 to ・400 for 20 sheets for the large size and 30 for the smaller size. "The Aloe Vera type contains Aloe extract and is good for those who have sensitive skin. And the silk protein in the Silk type gives a smoother, high quality finish." said Michiyo Kouchi, a salesclerk at the store.

Men shouldn't feel left out, as Hakuza has added a line of aburatorigami, dubbed "dansei-senka" which means "for men only" to their shelves. The dansei-senka tissues are specially formulated to deal with the tougher demands only a man's face can provide. Yet it might take some time to catch on, as it seems some courage and internal fortitude is necessary for most males to not only enter the shop but actually pick up the product for themselves. But don't fear fellas, there's an easy way to get your own.

"There are some female customers who buy Dansei-senka along with their own," said manager Nami Higa, by way of explanation as to how men can get their own supply.

Golf balls covered with pure gold-leaf are also available, along with other gold-leaf products. Okinawa Hakuza opens from 11a.m. to 9p.m. They accept yen only.

*** There are some giveaways courtesy of Okinawa Hakuza for six lucky readers of Japan Update. Send a fax to 934-5690 with your name, address, and comments, opinions or suggestions about articles that appear in Japan Update. Entries close April 30.

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