100 Years of Beauty in Japan [Video]

Noël Duan
Assistant Editor

Cut.com looks at Japan in its latest “100 Years of Beauty” episode, and it asked video researcher Marina Taylor and her mother, Junko Taylor, to help with the project. “Western styles and western trends have a huge influence on Japanese beauty and fashion at the time,” Taylor says. “They don’t just copy what they see. They combine and mix and make it uniquely Japanese.”

1910s: “Japan is going through what is called the Meiji restoration,” Taylor says. “Also, at this time, the emperor sends nobles to Europe to learn the culture and society there, and to bring it back to Japan so that they can implement it into their own culture. ”One hairstyle is reminiscent of the Edwardian pompadour, with a small lip painted inside of the natural lip line.

1920s: “Japan is the middle of Taishō democracy,” Taylor says. “They’re urbanizing and modernizing.” The perm becomes popular.

1930s: “Globally, we see the rise of the modern girl. Women desired to be free of these sexual, social, and political norms,” Taylor notes. There were young women who were criticized for the views they displayed. They were called “erotic, grotesque, and nonsense” by more conservative people.

1940s: Because of World War I, self-restraint became the motto for women every day. There was a campaign against the popular perm wave.

1950s: With the American occupation of Japan, Audrey Hepburn becomes iconic as a beauty role model.

1960s: Japan experience a post-war economic boom known as the Golden ‘60s. A popular singer, Chiyo Okumura, rocked a go-go look with big eyes, dramatic eyelashes, and Twiggy-inspired bright eyeshadows.

1970s: Japan’s economy continued to grow. Sayako Yamaguchi is Japan’s first internationally recognized supermodel. “She’s known for her iconic straight bangs, kind of resembling a traditional Japanese doll with her look,” Taylor notes. It wasn’t the mainstream of the era, but it was unique to the decade.

1980s: Marked with materialism and consumerism, the image of a helpless, submissive, and cute young girl became popular.

1990s: This is known as the decade of Japan’s bubble economy. There was a savage look, based on women who would go clubbing. Later in the decade, street fashion and beauty, ganguro, rose to prominenec, combatting traditional beauty ideals. “It’s not meant to be racist,” Taylor notes of the drastic tanning. “It’s about challenging traditional Japanese norms.”

2000s: A more natural look was popularized. There was also a lot of big hair with a lot of volume.

2010s: This marked the rise of girls who “are smiley, motherly, don’t criticize,” says Taylor. Harajuku styles with cheap accessories have also increased in popularity. “Japan is a very homogenous culture, and sticking out is not encouraged,” Taylor says. “There is a saying in Japan: The nail that sticks out gets hammered in,” her mother adds.

Watch the first 15 videos of the “100 Years of Beauty” series here: 1, 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7,8,9,10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15.


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