japanese beauty magazines: 3 posts

Why I Love Japanese Magazines

I had originally planned something completely different for today, but having spent the past several days working on a grueling technical report, I devoted this weekend to my neglected pile of Japanese magazines. And so I bring you this.


It wouldn’t surprise me if Japan produced more types of magazines than any other country. There are publications catering to all interests and lifestyles, no matter how obscure. A magazine about nothing but makeup? Sure! A digest that shows you how to turn yourself into a gothic Lolita? Why not!

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Japanese Roses and Fantasies

If I fashioned my life following the recommendations of Japanese beauty magazines, I would wake up in a white and pink bedroom tastefully decorated with colorful cushions and artfully arranged designer shoes. I would go to business meetings in mint and rose ensembles complete with vertiginous high heels and wear the perfect cat eyeliner. My meals would be so picture perfect that guests would be wondering whether they should eat them or simply admire my ability to carve carrots into maple leaves.


Given the number of impeccably groomed women I encountered in Tokyo, being perfectly polished is possible, but for better or worse, my life is not even close to the Japanese magazine fantasy. (OK, I did learn the cat eyeliner thanks to the point-by-point instructional diagrams spanning several pages.)  But I enjoy the portrayal of a neater and prettier universe on the glossy pages as a kind of vicarious thrill. It’s the same reason why I watch flamboyant Bollywood movies and moody film noir. It’s an escape from the routine.

While the Japanese are famously understated when it comes to perfume, fragrance is an important part of the fantasy that every magazine puts forward. Most choices are sheer, fresh and sparkling, as I’ve previously described in The Japanese Fragrance Conundrum : Top Selling Perfumes, and there are plenty of roses.

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The Japanese Fragrance Conundrum : Top Selling Perfumes

I’ve never seen such well-dressed, beautifully groomed women as in Tokyo. At Harajuku or Ginza, two high-glamour areas with distinctly different vibes, you will see one impeccably coiffed beauty after another tottering in her impossibly high heels, looking as if she’s ready for a magazine cover.  Beauty is big business in Japan, where the sales of cosmetics make this country the world’s second largest market after the US. You can find entire magazines devoted to nothing but color cosmetics, with the kind of attention to detail that is downright astounding. I flip open the makeup magazine, Biteki, to find technical illustrations, sophisticated instructions and comparison charts on topics as straightforward as the application of lipstick or as complex as anti-aging skincare.


By comparison, perfume is not represented nearly as well . Walking through the glittering halls of the Mitsukoshi or Takashimaya department stores, you won’t find the endless expanse of fragrance bars that you would see at Neiman Marcus or even Macy’s. This is not to say that there isn’t an interesting selection of both prestige and niche lines in Japan. They are available, along with detailed technical explanations on how your fragrance was made and how you are supposed to enjoy it. Have you ever received a brochure describing how to apply fragrance from your local perfume store? At Mitsukoshi, that’s exactly what would wind up in your bag, along with an exquisitely wrapped bottle.

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