Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Image of Beauty in Contemporary Japan: A Visual Anthropology Workshop

In a recent workshop, the "Body and Communication in Japan" class created posters to illustrate "beauty in Japan." The class had read and discussed excerpts from Laura Spielvogel's "Working Out in Japan: Shaping the Female Body in Tokyo Fitness Clubs" (Duke University Press, 2003) to prepare. Students brought in their own examples of Japanese beauty and borrowed other images from the Intructor's cache of fashion magazines.

Students broke down into groups and had 30 minutes to make their posters. Students pose in front of their visual creations.

Many seemed to agree with the four criteria of beauty in the feminine body in Spielvogel: youth, good proportions, shapely legs and skinniness.

Images from manga (and drawn by some students) and visual kei were also included.

The instructions for the workshop did not specify female beauty, but women were featured most of the time. Are there no beautiful men in Japan? (Or perhaps, as in one case, female students did not want to sacrifice their photos of Japanese male idols...)

Foreign influences were discussed and illustrated. But the most important characteristic of beauty (for women and men) is かわいい!(CUTE!)

Accessories, brand name bags, customized fingernails, diet aids and body manipulation techniques were also included in posters.

One student noted that all of the posters looked the same. Does that mean that the there is a set criteria for beauty in Japan?
  • Does everyone want to look like Ayumi Hamasaki?

  • What images would you include to represent beauty in Japan?

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