I have been telling my Japanese class buddies recently that if I could go back in time and meet my 18 year-old self again, I would advise the then ignoramus to go for cosmetic surgery, to hell with any pain that may come. (This is ironic though in view that I am still trying to convince myself to go for Lasik NOW.) I have seen how cosmetic surgery has transformed so many female stars (particularly the Korean ones) from plain fugly girls to drop dead gorgeous women. Of course, it is irrelevant now that I am old and married, but given another chance, I think I would LURVE to morph into a hot geisha - first by creating a bridge for my nose and sharpening the tip, second by sharpening my chin, and then lasering off my skin (get it ALL OFF!!!) for a baby smooth complexion.
One of them, who is also my best friend, counselled against such drastic (and painful) measures, and suggested instead that make-up can effect incredible changes to one's looks. Although I am as vain as the next female, I still don't know much about make-up (my daily routine takes only 15 minutes - slap on bbcream, blusher, line brows, apply lipstick). Up until today, I can't even line my eyes properly without looking like a panda, or apply eye-shadows correctly without looking like a social escort (God must have known so he gave me bigger eyes and more prominent double eyelids - but dang my poor eyesight.)
In any case, her comments reminded me of all the beautiful Japanese girls I have come across in Japan, wonderfully made-up and elegantly (or weird, if they were in cosplay costumes) dressed, strutting down the crowded streets of Tokyo as if those were their personal runways. If there was any one place in the world where one could drown in envy and self pity, Japan would be it. (An aside: it is tragic that the number of Japanese hunks are nowhere near the numbers of hot chicks. If you are expecting to bump into a Takuya look-alike at the train stations, you would be sorely disappointed, like I was.)
But the secret of all these gorgeous women was unveiled to me one day when, on the Tokyo Metro to Shinjuku, I saw a young Japanese lady in all her full unmade-up glory, before proceeding to transform herself into a stunning Kawaii goddess over 10 subway stations. Frankly, I had trouble dis-lodging my jaw from the floor afterwards. To say that she was plain and that I would never give her a second glance was a gross understatement. And how she looked after piling on the make-up she had hidden inside an enormous tote bag was like seeing Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And achieving the new look (which includes eye liner, fake lashes, etc) in under 20 minutes on a MOVING train spoke volumes of her make up skills. I think I have never stared so blatantly at one person in public in my life. Thank God she was too engrossed in her routine to notice.
Since I was too stunned to secretly take pictures of her, I found something on the Net to approximate the major transformation I saw:
Sorry this was from Taiwan TV but it was like she had an eye transplant, literally.
Which leads me to the second point that the Japanese cosmetic industry is AMAZING. Even though yours truly only use the most basic of cosmetics tools, I am agog by the range and variety of Japanese skin care and cosmetics, which can be found almost ANYWHERE. Walk into a pharmacy and you will be greeted by rows and rows of brightly packaged cosmetic products (And I am not talking about Shiseido or Kanebo here). Tokyu Hands in Shinjuku has a floor dedicated to Japanese cosmetic products alone, and I was greeted by probably 50 brands and types of fake eyelashes, eye liners, etc along just one aisle. To top it off, they are extremely affordable - all the more to tempt you into splurging like there is no tomorrow.
A typical Japanese beauty from a beauty magazine scan
Amidst the gazillion brands fighting for your Yen in the market, there are a few interesting ones that have caught my attention. One of them is Yojiya of Kyoto (www.yojiya.co.jp) , founded in 1904, and most famous for its range of facial oil blotting paper which I have carted loads home. Yojiya also has many natural skin care products like papaya facial wash powder, or seasonal hand creams made from sakura. I love how Yojiya is a blend of the traditional and the modern. The Yojiya store I went to at Gion, Kyoto was brightly lit, beautifully designed, and PACKED of course with beautiful women.
A sample of Yojiya products with traditional packaging
There are still many other brands of Japanese cosmetics that I have yet to uncover, but I am totally sold on idea that the beautiful women of Japan are a direct result of their wonderful cosmetics and skin care products. Ok, let me go blot my face with the Yojiya rice paper. I feel more beautiful already.