Friday, July 24, 2009

What do I find strange about Japan? (Japan Blog Matsuri)

07.24 AimerFeel-FlowerRoad-1, originally uploaded by sleepytako.

What do I find strange about Japan?

All the lingerie models in Japan are white, western women. My wife gets the PeachJohn catalog--all white girls. Look at the mannequins and models in this AimerFeel storefront in Kobe--more white girls. I'm not complaining, just wondering. I can understand the reason behind most things that I might find crazy, strange, or unusual here in Japan--no matter how obtuse or misinformed that reasoning might be. This one, however, leaves me at a loss for words.

7/27 Edit: Here's the link for the matsuri info:


Jim said...

A lot of Japanese women seem to be jealous of the look of Western women (I don't know why!), but there does seem to be a desire to look more western (the eyelid operation is one of the most popular in Japan). So perhaps that explains why they use western women to advertise underwear?

(This is just my observation from living in Japan for a few years)

David said...

Jealousy could be an answer, I've pondered that for a while.

"the eyelid operation is one of the most popular in Japan"

I thought that was Korea. I've never seen an advertisement for doing the eyelid stuff here, nor have any of my Japanese friends mentioned it.

Decaln said...


Asians are probably over-represented in advertising here too but it does seem to be a stronger trend in Japan.

I'll have to do some serious research into this ;)

David said...

Well, it's an Asian country. Most of the models, actors, consumers would be Asian so shouldn't the majority of models be Asian?

Maybe I'm not understanding your comment.

I feel blessed that as a puberty ridden teenager I had a diversity of mostly nekked women examine in the Victoria's Secret catalog.

reesan said...

hi sleepytako, an interesting observation and great submission for the matsuri. i've always been intrigued with this and could never satisfy myself with an adequate explanation as to why. i mean, this is a race of people who have historically been insular, closed off from outside influences by their own choice. and now in magazines, on tv and even the mannequins in the store (as your post highlights) are promoting, or trying to popularise, a western look. strange.

David said...

Well to start off... and I'm not trying to be harsh but I've got a few questions for you.

First, let's not use the word "race". Anthropologists have given up on that word long ago.

Second, Japan has hardly been insular. The Bakafu era banned things coming in to the general populace, but the elites knew about the world around them. Look at the post from StrangeMaps that I posted on JapanSOC a few weeks ago to see how well they understood the world around them. And that was more than 100 years ago. This is a different era in Japanese cultural history. Yes, there is a historical influence but is it stronger than capital? I say not.

Third, is it an unconscious act of popularization? Is it an act of not "spoiling" the virginal Japanese body and instead hyper-sexualizing the other (gai in gaikoujin) body instead? You could make an argument for both equally.

David said...

I said questions, but I meant comments for you. I'd love to hear what you think.

Thanks for your comment!

Blue Shoe said...

I think many young Japanese women envy the, erm, shape of their Western counterparts. I've had several of my high school students ask me why American girls have nicer figures than Japanese, and pose their own theories (that Americans eat more meat, for example).

Itsuke said...

Just a guess--- Perhaps why most business owners prefer these white mannequins is because they are the cheapest?

David said...

@BlueShoe Perhaps, advertising often works by installing a sense of inferiority in the consumer and then offers a solution via a product.

@Itsuke I don't think so. Things like clip art or stock photo might be cheaper, but these are models wearing current products most of the time. I don't see many bikini model looking white women walking around Kobe. They might have to shoot those photos in Europe or America even raising costs.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I'm sick of people saying that Japanese women are jealous of Western women. That is really not true with most Japanese women I have met. The need for paler skin dates back to the whole "tan skin is poor people working outside, pale skin is rich people staying inside". (I know this sounds irrelevant, but many people seem to make that argument)
As for the whole body thing, it's probably because Japan as a country (not saying everyone is) is considered short. The preferred body typed is generally tall, for most people regardless of race.
Eyelid surgery isn't due to Westerners either - it's been a beauty staple in Asia for centuries.
Secondly, sleepytako is probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you check out, that whole site is dedicated to posting pictures of Japanese (along with other Asian ethnicities) lingerie models, car models, etc. Not to mention, a lot of girls get their start in Japanese entertainment by gravure modeling.

David said...


I doubt I am in the wrong place in the wrong time--I live here. This is something I've noticed over my 4 years in Japan. I've never said that all the models are foreign, nor have I given a reason for it.
Here are my three main hypothesizes about this trend:

-Japanese girls find western girls cute. I wouldn't call it Jealousy.
-Western girls bodies are better for showing off the articles for sale.
-It would be immodest for Japanese girls to be displayed in that manner, so foreigners are used instead.

The latter two reasons would be based in cultural biases.

But really @anon, I think your bias (fetish, perhaps) colors your there opinion here. I doubt anyone was attacking the beauty of Japanese or non-Japanese women in this post and its comments.

Anonymous said...

This is anon here.
Ah, okay. I suppose your reasons make sense, maybe I was misunderstanding? It came off that way to me, atleast.
And trust me, there is no bias here (sorry if I came off harsh or prejudiced, it's not really what i was trying to construe). I am actually a straight girl, so there is no "fetish" here. I find Western women, Asian women, and African women all equally beautiful. I was just sick of hearing a lot of people say that Japanese women try to look "western" all the time.

David said...

Sorry there Anon, I totally pegged you for an Asian girl fetishist. I think that the idea that Japanese girls try to look "Western" is overplayed--to say the least. It's the aftermath of a 100 years of misogynistic research mixed with orientalism. My expereience has been like yours. The idea of the western girl's body type also has been cultivated here. It has no basis in the reality that is the myriad of body types found in those of European heritage. The Japanese ideal of a Western girl has nothing to do with the reality of real western women--why should it in the first place. The general American image of Japanese women is no where close to being based in reality.

I think I finally found what a truly don't understand and hence find strange. How is the power of this Western body image so lucrative to marketing their product that they choose western models over Japanese or east Asian models.

Anonymous said...

the west has always symbolized progress and for japanese girls it symbolizes the epitome of women or ideal, being not only the eyes but the body type too. you don't find alot of tall, broad shouldered or curvy, large breasted girls in japan,(im not saying there are none, just its fewer in number) and for SOME this type of superficial outlook is what's in. I don't think its jealousy as much as just plain admiration.