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Japanese culture and lifestyles through the eyes of NHK WORLD personalities

May 26, 2016

Japanese Beauty: The Worship of Perfection

Erica Angyal / Nutrition Consultant, Beauty Consultant

Erica Angyal is a health consultant, speaker, and author who served as the nutritionist to the Miss Universe Japan organization for 8 years. Her life's mission is to inspire well-being from the inside out. On NHK WORLD, she hosts Medical Frontiers.


Japanese women are famous for their flawless skin and youthful beauty. And as a foreign woman living in Japan, one of the first things you notice is the relentless pursuit of the beauty or 'bi' ideal.

If you were to describe the prevailing Japanese bi ideal, she would have lustrous black or brown hair, her skin would be porcelain, luminous and absolutely flawless. She would be thin, feminine, pretty and petite, and yet at the same time, have a certain cuteness or 'kawaii' factor.

Beauty here is indeed a serious business. In fact, Japan boasts the world’s largest skin-care market per capita, and Japanese women spend more on skin-care products than any other woman in the world. And in terms of make-up, after the US, Japan is the second largest market worldwide for cosmetics.

So it’s no surprise that Japan is home to some of the best skincare and beauty products in the world. Japanese women are exceptionally sophisticated consumers, driving innovation by constantly seeking the next best product, and in doing so, they have elevated beauty to a whole new level.

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One only needs to walk down any main street or ride the subway in Tokyo, Osaka or Nagoya to see just how prevalent the culture of bi is. Or to step inside a department store or a drugstore to witness the endless array of beauty-related products, or flick through any of the countless magazines to see just how much of an art beauty is in Japan.

While skin care in the West is often considered part of a routine, much like flossing or brushing one’s teeth, here it is very much a ritual, which can involve as many as seven to ten steps, compared to about half that in the West.

Japan is unlike any other beauty landscape in the world. Two major monthly magazines are dedicated entirely to skin care and make-up, and general fashion magazines offer in depth tips, tutorials and how-to’s for makeup and skin care, in a detail not seen anywhere else.

Beautiful skin is of course naturally valued in the west, and if one doesn't have breakouts, scars or isn't overly lined, then that's considered fairly good skin. And while some women in the west prefer a sun-kissed glow, Japan worships the cult of 'bihaku' or 'beautiful white'. Around 70 per cent of women use whitening products in their daily skincare regime to achieve the ideal porcelain-pale complexion.

Apart from beautiful skin, being thin is another big part of the Japanese beauty ideal. Whereas Western countries like the US and Australia, tend to value the body and physical fitness—toned arms, a firm stomach, along with being healthy and fit, Japanese women are exceedingly weight conscious, and most women strive to be thin, especially by western standards.

Yet another uniquely Japanese beauty standard is the size of the face. There is an obsession with having a "kogao"– a narrow, oval facial shape with a jaw line that tapers into a V. Kogao literally means "small face". According to this ideal, the smaller the face, the more beautiful and Japanese stores offer an enormous selection of products, goods and devices, which promise a smaller and slimmer face.

Japan is a country notorious too for its super-fads and trends. You can easily spend endless hours exploring and appreciating the dedication to Japanese beauty, in all its forms.

Beauty standards and trends differ from culture to culture and country to country and Japan is no exception. Women here are constantly on a quest for the latest and the greatest beauty product, tool, device, treatment or superfood that promises radiant, youthful and flawless skin. So it’s not surprising that the eyes of the beauty world are on Japan!

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Erica Angyal / Nutrition Consultant, Beauty Consultant

Erica Angyal is a nutritionist, health consultant, speaker, and author of ten books on health and beauty. Born in Sydney Australia, Erica graduated from the Sydney University of Technology in 2000 with a Bachelor of Health Science in Acupuncture. She received her diploma in Nutrition from Nature Care College in Sydney, and is a member of the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS).
Erica joined Miss Universe Japan as the official nutritionist in 2004 to 2012. The Miss Universe Japan representative was crowned Miss Universe in Mexico in 2007, and in 2006 the Miss Universe Japan representative became the 1st runner up at the Miss Universe Contest in Los Angeles.
Erica's greatest passions are the areas of preventive nutrition and holistic anti-aging strategies and she has made it her life's mission to empower and inspire people to maximize their health, beauty, and well being "from the inside out".

QuestionHow long have you been in Japan?
20 years
QuestionWhat was your original reason for coming to Japan?
I first came as a 15 year old exchange student and enjoyed a wonderful year living with a Japanese family in Oita prefecture in Kyushu.
Question What's your favorite scenic spot in Japan?
Anywhere in a rotenburo (an open air natural hot spring) with a view over a beautiful pristine river or over the ocean or in nature.
Question What's the one thing that's essential to your life in Japan?
Takkyubin, the amazing Japanese delivery service, which operate 7 days a week, 365 days of the year and they deliver until late at night. They are incredibly reliable and delivery is the generally the next day. Amazingly, with some of the companies, you can request delivery for a specific two-hour period of time.
Question What is your favorite Japanese word? Please briefly describe what it means in English.
"Mizumizushii" … It sounds beautiful. In English essentially means fresh, juicy, or succulent. It literally means high water content. It is used to describe food ... like a juicy melon, apple or peach. It can also mean fresh and youthful too. In this case it is used to describe someone's skin.


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