Male Beauty in Japan One of the many things that piqued my interest while I was studying abroad in Japan

was just how effeminate young Japanese men are. There is a phenomenon similar to it in the United States, dubbed “metrosexuals,” but here it is at not nearly the same scale as it is in Japan. The United States also does not have a history of arts in which cross-dressing is not only the norm, but encouraged. For this research paper I sought to understand just how this feminizing differs from metrosexuals, and why this new breed of men in touch with their feminine side is safe from the stigma of homosexuality. First, what is a metrosexual? In his article defining the trend, Marc van Bree uses two definitions: “a dandyish narcissist in love with not only himself, but also his urban lifestyle; a straight man who is in touch with his feminine side,” and “a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis – because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference” (van Bree p). The main part of these definitions is the concept of narcissism. In the United States, this is not something out of the ordinary, but in the group-oriented Japan, narcissistic individuality is an alien concept. Although the qualities are shared, something is different about the trend in Japan. Japan has a history of feminized men in the arts. Both traditional theater styles of Noh and Kabuki have been male-dominated, much like Shakespearean theater, but unlike the latter, the Japanese forms not only had the male actors dress up like women, but they basically lived their lives being the opposite sex and were known as onnagata (“form of women”). As Maki Morinaga states:

therefore this is a legitimate concern. makeup. literally “young people. but Miller does not believe there is anything to worry about. and is . they also embodied the essence of femininity. at least up to the time when onnagata came into existence during the seventeenth century.“When they came into being in the seventeenth century. Starting from this “military masculinity.” but Laura Miller believes that what we are seeing among young Japanese men is not feminization but rather a change in thinking that allows beauty to become a component of masculinity. Visual rock has its roots in the Western glam rock of the 1980s. This narcissism is obviously not unique to Japan. masculinity was interlinked with the homosexual practices of the warrior class.” were the junior partners in male homosexual relationships. which had had a long tradition in the warrior class. Japan is even more of a patriarchy than in the United States. The more recent phenomenon that has my particularly interested is that of visual rock. Critics of the trend disagree.” (np) In feudal Japan.” onnagata eventually reached artistic perfection in the eighteenth century. Yet the onnagata not only embodied masculinity. when they were considered a reification of ideal femininity. I have used the term “feminized. stating that male focus on beautification is a sign of the loss of male power (126). Warrior wakashu. onnagata modeled themselves on wakashu in the relatively prestigious warrior class. but unlike that genre has continued even until today. skirts). Visual rock in Japan is characterized by feminized bands composed of all young men who dress up like women (long hair. Wakashu. were characterized as robust and adolescent male homosexual practitioners who were diligently learning warrior manhood from their senior partners. a phenomenon that does not have an equal in the West. and play for audiences that are at least 90% female.

but also their legs. Between the 1950s and the 1970s. they had to sell their souls to corporate companies and they were in turn de-eroticized. but in order to gain that wealth. but after the economic bubble burst. The feminized man is what they believe to be what women desire (127). all driven by the female desire for non-hairy men (133-135). Dandy House. is a way for men to self-objectify themselves in order to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex. and arms as well. Miller claims. and their . masculinity was defined by the west. Each esute salon is different. some catering to young males of high school and college age. The image of men in this period was the balding. These salons use advertising that exploit the need to “feminize” as a means of attracting women. too busy at the office to be a significant factor in his own family life. such as skin. and body weight problems. body hair. and promoted through such hairy stars as Sean Connery and Charles Bronson (133).in fact a direct response to how men form identity in late-capitalist societies. and the advertising refers to the effect the beautification will have on said women. middle-aged professional men. Japanese men indulge their depilatory and other desires at esute (from the Japanese pronunciation of “aesthetic”) salons. armpits. At the time it was the norm. coupled with the subsequent beautification. has a mostly female staff (130). but depilation is by far the number one service (129). or even specifically gay men. mustached man wearing a business suit. is the antithesis to the oyaji (“old man”) stereotype of the 1980s. What women desire. Esute salons offer services that address a myriad of problems that the self-conscious young man may have. Consumption. Japanese women began rejecting this stereotype and started favoring clean-shaven men not afraid to put pride and individuality into their looks (127). One of the biggest. Men today not only shave their faces and chests. These were the men that entered the time of economic wealth.

They did not find the feminization wrong because it makes men seem gay. but being openly gay in the normal world is still something unheard of in the country. all entertainers are exempt from the same social norms as everyday people. He fails. Homosexuality in Japan is only slightly more accepted in Japan than it is in the United States.commercials that I saw during my stay in Japan reflected the typical esute approach to attracting men to “feminization. Homosexual entertainers tend to be of the flamboyant variety. One commercial even shows his attempts at this new masculinity being misconstrued as gay. but because it shows that the men in question have no pride in themselves and submit easily to a . implying that there is a way to beautify correctly. In the Japanese mind. Not all young men in Japan are accepting of this new beauty trend. Even [businessmen] are interested in beauty and looking their best -. Miller interviewed young males at universities and discovered that those who were against it used sexist rather than homophobic thinking. Shogo Kariyazaki. and more womanly than women. attempting to mimic the suave actions of a beautified younger man in order to woo a woman at a fancy party. and shows such as Onee-Mans (a pun on the word onee-san. rock icon Keisuke Kuwata. which means “older sister”) fully exploit such talents. yet not men.” One of the panelists. obviously in much need of the services Dandy House has to offer. was interviewed on what he thought about the current trend of male beauty. It doesn't matter if they are straight or gay. Onee-Mans is a show that consists of a panel of gay and transgendered men who discuss fashion aimed at young women. and this includes openly gay entertainers.either for their girlfriends or just for themselves. The official website describes these panelists as “men.” These commercials show a scruffy older man. We are simply not afraid to show our feminine sides anymore” (Faiola np). “There's no question that men are changing the way they think of themselves in Japan.

He claims that his makeup technique is to make the eyes look large because “women need strong eyes. an attempt by companies to include men in the market for expensive clothing and beauty products (np). and tattoos were once taboo. a company that markets facial cleansing products. but also for his clients. that's a lie! I don't really. This has some credence. “I want to fall in love. young men. which featured the cross-dressing comedian Yakkun Sakurazuka. since for many young Japanese women. the old oyaji image is a symbol of the strong patriarchal values still present in Japan. But definitely how people see you is important" (TV Life np). Ear piercing. and the feminization of men shows the liberalization of its young people (138).women’s demands (137). and the majority of employees at hair salons are. Cosmetics in Japan have always been genderless. In reality. he responded. and even before this recent trend men have preferred to go to salons for haircuts rather than barbershops (Miller 139). Another commercial I saw in Japan was for the company Labo Labo. the entire time I was in Japan I did not see one barbershop. not surprisingly. van Bree agrees claims this new metrosexuality is merely consumerism. young men must be able to successfully attract wives in an era of intense marriage resistance among women” (127). but are now being embraced in popular culture . Yakkun was interviewed about his role in the commercial. No. since he does women’s makeup for a professional living. the cause has more to do with the marriage crisis in Japan than sexism. In fact. Current male fashion in Japan not only appropriates the once underground and stigmatized gay culture.” When asked why he takes pride in caring for his face outside of his female character. and he revealed that he uses such beauty products not only for his character of a wooden-swordwielding schoolgirl. but also the Western norms of what beauty is. Miller states that “because of the importance of heterosexual marriage for establishing adult male identity. body piercing.

Also stemming from this hatred towards businessmen. If surgery is not pursued. The face is the most common site for men. Andrews in Scotland showed that women preferred men with feminine features for long-term relationships. Many critics of this new beauty trend in Japan believe that it is in fact a continued racist beauty ideology that implies Asians are not pretty enough and they must strive to look more “Western” (149). Many young Japanese opt to dye their hair light brown instead of the natural dark browns and blacks that are genetically common. an extremely uncommon height in Japan. are six feet tall or over. as well as . Cosmetic surgery is also a very common modern practice in Japan. such as the nose and the chin line. he is advised to wear jewelry that is “cute” or “sweet” to soften the look. if a heterosexual man has piercings. Men. Bleaching and coloring hair is the most common form of beautification utilized by men and women alike. Even so.(particularly the visual rock I previously mentioned). and this can be construed not only as an acceptance of foreign beauty standards. otherwise he may still be mistaken as part of the gay culture (Miller 144). but preferred men with masculine features during the point in ovulation when a woman is most likely to conceive a child (148). and for both sexes changing the eyelid by adding a crease to make it appear larger is the number one surgery not only in Japan. Japanese women express hatred for three things in men: short. Tans on men are also considered masculine. who are characterized by their closecropped black hairstyles. as opposed to the unhealthy paleness of the businessmen who spend their lives indoors. but in the rest of East Asia. Most popular young male models. since they symbolize youth or an active outdoors life. bald. Studies conducted at the University of Tokyo and the University of St. then this same effect is accomplished using makeup and a special glue to make a temporary crease in the eyelid (147). but also as another way to reject the oyaji. such as Mokomichi Hayami pictured on the right. and chubby (146).

but today thanks to consumer culture they are indulging in it even more. Japanese men have always embraced their feminine side. but rather capitalist consumerism fueled by international relations that claim Western dominance over Japan (148).women. feel this pressure. . and these new beauty norms are not a result of shifts in popular cultural thought or changes in the understanding of masculinity and femininity.

com/wpdyn/content/article/2005/09/21/AR2005092102434.washingtonpost.2morinaga. and Involvement in the Circulation of> Miller. "The Metrosexual Defined. Laura. Accessed 2 December 2007 < Maki. Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics. Accessed 2 December 2007 <http://www.mcmvanbree.” Washington Post. Performativity. Accessed 15 November 2007 < Anthony. University of California Press: Berkeley.M. “The Gender of Onnagata as the Imitating Imitated: Its Historicity.tvlife. 2006.php> ." Marc van Bree: Cultural Affairs and Public Relations. Marc C.Works Cited Faiola.htm> “TV Life: Labo Labo shinshouhin CM ni Sakurazuka Yakkun toujou!” Accessed 15 November 2007 <http://www.jhu. “Men in Land of Samurai Find Their Feminine Side: Marketing Fosters Shift in Gender Roles.html> van Bree. Morinaga.” Project Muse.

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