Being against popular culture is particularly difficult, considering the temptations that society provides people with and the fact that one risks being excluded from a community if he or she does not act in accordance with the convictions respected by the group’s members (Aoyagi, 151).
Consumerism has been taken to a whole new level in Japan, as 2006 reports have shown that in spite of the fact that the country’s population is not even half that of the U.S., it managed to consume “41% of the entire world’s luxury goods” (Japan is the world’s most concentrated source of revenue for luxury brands). Whereas people in the Occident consider Japan to be a country represented by the natural beauty and health of its people many Japanese resort to cosmetics and facial surgery in order to change their looks. This situation is both ironic and alarming at the same time, given that people virtually ignore conventionalism in favor of practicing harmful activities that they believe will assist them in better integrating a consumerist society. Individuals no longer care about their health or about traditionalism because they are willing to do anything they can with the purpose of achieving what they believe is the correspondent of an accomplished livelihood, regardless of the risks involved (Storey, 140).
Age is very important in influencing people’s determination to become recognized by the individuals that they come in contact with. Younger people are more vulnerable to this, as their main focus is integration. The case of Saeko Kimura is particularly interesting, as she resorted to using facial surgery as a means to have her eyes rounder and wider. According to Kimura, round eyes are apparently more effective in attracting other people, thus the reason for which she decided to make a daring step toward improving her physical appearance. Judging from her personal experience with plastic surgery, one is likely to think that it is actually beneficial for an individual in Japan to use unconventional techniques as a means to better their looks. “Around Asia, women — and increasingly, men — are nipping and tucking, sucking and suturing, injecting and implanting, all in the quest for better looks” (Changing Faces). Blepharoplasty, one of the most common forms of plastic surgery in Japan, is performed on the eyelid, cutting it and emphasizing the eyeball. The operation is a minor facial modification to most people who do it. Just like losing weight or wearing braces, it is but a step in the process of becoming beautiful. Ethnic appearance is more important than it might seem and people in Japan seem to be well aware of this. They want to look less Asian and more like the perfect people that they are presented with in the media (Frazier).
This is surprising, especially considering that people in Japan were previously recognized for their devotement to traditionalism. Cultural values and a relatively uninterested end user community are among the principal reasons for which people were reluctant to use plastic surgery. The fact that plastic surgery and contact lenses are becoming widespread across Japan is very worrying, as people have come to consider these beautifying techniques to be rather similar to wearing make-up. The masses believe that society is a place dominated by evolution in beauty, with beautiful people having more chances to succeed while less attractive individuals are very likely to experience failure as a result of their physical appearance (Changing Faces).
Japan’s increasing consumerist movement is accountable for the rapid change visible everywhere in the country. Clinics from across Asia have reportedly experienced a significant increase in income as a result of the fact that an increasing amount of individuals choose surgery as a way out of anonymity. People in contemporary Japan are concentrated about their looks and are willing to pay money in exchange for surgery that will make them pretty. Physical appearance is extremely important in the business world today, with people being well-aware that they have to look good in order to seem more appealing for the people that they work with. Some are forced to transform their physical looks because of their jobs, which demand that they have slim bodies and a beautiful face (Changing Faces). Popular culture is generally responsible for shaping people’s conception of beautiful. Pop artists and idols promote artificial images and they are themselves determined to achieve the perfect look, influencing the masses in thinking that it is perfectly natural for them to want to go under the physician’s blade in order to “correct” their “imperfections” (Frazier).
Consumerism has made a universal standard of beauty, influencing people everywhere to give their best in order to reach that standard. Even though a culture can appear to hold great esteem for certain values, its recognition toward those respective matters is dynamic, meaning that it can change at any time. The Eastern world has traditionally tried to be affected as little as possible by foreign cultures, but its efforts were in vain, considering present-day conditions in Asia. Companies are accustomed to choosing beautiful people to represent them, most of these individuals having Caucasian features. With the majority of stars in Hollywood being white, it is almost impossible for a Japanese to identify with them, thus making his physical features less impressive. Whereas Caucasian individuals are also inclined to resort to plastic surgery in order to become more beautiful, it is virtually impossible for a Japanese not to consider facial surgery in a consumerist-dominated environment. Muscular bodies and beautiful faces are seemingly not enough for people in Japan who want to be beautiful from a general point-of-view (Frazier).
Imperialism is, to a certain degree, responsible for having influenced Asian cultures greatly. However, most Asians have developed an increased awareness in regard to Euro-American influences consequent to this period, unwilling to have anything to do with white people and their customs. The colonialist era is officially over, but off the record it is still going strong, holding cultures captive through the media and with consumerism. Although most sources highlight that Japanese surgery techniques are meant to have Japanese individuals look more like Caucasians, there are also individuals thinking that people simply want to enhance their beautiful eyes by undergoing surgery. From their perspective, the fact that patients enlarging their eyes look more Euro-American is but a coincidence. It is perfectly normal for people to want to look good, especially given that all kinds of individuals resort to using plastic surgery, regardless of their color, ethnicity, or backgrounds. It is difficult to understand why some people think that there is a standard form of beauty that they have to reach, as a person who gets to that step is nothing more than average (Frazier).
The clash of cultures between the East and the West has had different effects on people from around the world. Individuals in the West have expressed their interest in learning more regarding Japanese culture while people in Japan have went further and put across their desire to imitate Euro-American culture and physical appearance.
Aoyagi, Hiroshi. “Pop Idols and Gender Contestation”
Beech, Hannah. “Eurasian Invasion.” Retrieved February 26, 2011, from the Time Website: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,106427,00.html
Frazier, Christopher. “Dynamic Beauty: Cultural Influences and Changing Perceptions.” Retrieved February 26, 2011, from the University of Hawaii Website: http://www.uhh.hawaii.edu/academics/hohonu/writing.php?id=87
Mostow, Joshua S. “Museum as Hometown: What is “Japanese Beauty?”
“Changing Faces.” Retrieved February 26, 2011, from the Time Website:
“Japan is the world’s most concentrated source of revenue for luxury brands.” Retrieved February 26, 2011, from the Japan External Trade Organization Website: http://jetro.org/content/361