Sunday, October 23, 2005

Tokyo girls

The Sunday Times Style magazine today features an article of Tokyo girls. As is often the case with Western media (a notorious example is New York Times; its article in 2002 argues that the popularity of manga in Japan is due to low literacy rates as a result of the difficulty of learning Japanese characters...), some parts of the article are not quite right. So let me correct them here.

Now, to be part-time (or freeter) is the chosen career dream for the next generation of Japanese youth. You work three days a week in shops and spend the rest of your time chasing creative dreams.
Although there are indeed such Japanese young people, the majority of freeters are those without any dreams. They don't know what they want. But they do know that being employed by a big company is not what they want. So to be part-time is NOT "career dream" at all. It's a passive choice.
Off Omotesando, Tokyo's Champs-Elysées, hair salons are training their beautiful male stylists to flirt with the ladies (it's all part of the service).
It's true that there are loads of stylish hair salons off Omotesando, where "carisma" hairstylists cut your hair. But I haven't heard that they flirt female customers. (Yumiko-san, who used to work at a hairsalon in Japan, says it can happen, though.)
Dressing isn't about showing off your body to men. Japanese girls aspire to something much more elusive: mote. Mote is softer than sexy. It means delicious and perfect, and Japanese girls set about the pursuit of it with alacrity.

Mote is NOT a word meaning delicious and perfect. It means popular among people of the opposite sex.
Girls such as Hikaru Utada (who releases her first English-language album here this month), the duo Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi (described as "Led Zeppelin meets Hello Kitty") and the band Morning Musume don't just do pricey pop videos, in-store promotions and the odd fashion line. To be adored by Japan's idol-worshipping masses, 100% media saturation is necessary. JPop stars are expected to be television stars, cartoon and video-game characters, models, performing dolls and film actors in blockbuster movies...
Although this characterization of JPop stars is correct, Hikaru Utada is not a good example. She's more of an artistic type. When you want to talk about JPop divas, you shouldn't miss Ayumi Hamasaki (her official Japanese website) though her popularity has passed its peak.

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