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Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics

by Laura Miller

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322559,914 (3.92)None
This engaging introduction to Japan's burgeoning beauty culture investigates a wide range of phenomenon--aesthetic salons, dieting products, male beauty activities, and beauty language--to find out why Japanese women and men are paying so much attention to their bodies. Laura Miller uses social science and popular culture sources to connect breast enhancements, eyelid surgery, body hair removal, nipple bleaching, and other beauty work to larger issues of gender ideology, the culturally-constructed nature of beauty ideals, and the globalization of beauty technologies and standards. Her sophisticated treatment of this timely topic suggests that new body aesthetics are not forms of "deracializiation" but rather innovative experimentation with identity management. While recognizing that these beauty activities are potentially a form of resistance, Miller also considers the commodification of beauty, exploring how new ideals and technologies are tying consumers even more firmly to an ever-expanding beauty industry. By considering beauty in a Japanese context, Miller challenges widespread assumptions about the universality and naturalness of beauty standards.… (more)



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The Japanese beauty industry is a multi billion dollar business, and it employs more people than car repair or software development. This book like describes in general terms the development of this industry in the last decade or so, plus how it allows people to express a certain level of individuality. According to the author, the industry basically sells a lot of nonsense for a high price.

The beauty industry does so in a way that is not so much about creating an atmosphere of pampering, but rather like progress measurement and control, as if you were in a Toyota plant rather than a beauty parlour. During every treatment the hard selling techniques are combined with measurement of results to prove the value of the treatment.

The author also describes how the industry combines exotic images (be it European or Asian) with Japanese modern technology to legitimise self-indulgence. In the mean time the industry creates and/or reflects changing attitudes towards beauty, with the neck losing out in sexiness against “hypermammary fixation” and slimness.

The last chapter about the evolution of the English language in the beauty industry to evocate ideas very different from the words’ original meaning is interesting in itself. ( )
  mercure | Apr 2, 2010 |
Excellent book on Japanese concepts of beauty by Laura Miller. She is a linguist, but has written some great pieces on girl's culture in Japan. In this work Miller subjected herself to a wide range of beauty treatments, to experience it first hand. It makes for both an entertaining and educational read. She also provides a more interesting take on Japanese concepts of beauty than the often repeated "they are emulating the west" phrase, that we get so often. The book is informative both when it comes to beauty practices used by individuals and strategies employed by the beauty industry. ( )
  danielbeattie | Oct 2, 2009 |
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