It seems to be de rigueur for the introduction or first chapter of any cultural studies book to be a catalogue of theoretical approaches, with the author strictly delineating which ones she or he will adopt in the remainder of the book, and gravely acknowledging some other academic for "bring[ing] to our attention the existence of multiple centers and peripheries," etc. The first chapter of this book follows the same formula, but the mood and interest level brighten up as soon as these preliminaries are out of the way. Even though the author makes a number of serious points about, among other things, the "construction" of gender in Japan, she does so with a light touch and a sense of fun.
The book's focus is on how Japanese, especially in the 20-30-y.o. generation, conceive of and modify their bodies, especially through "beauty work" and "esute" (aesthtic) salons. The author convincingly shows that certain beauty practices long interpreted (in the West) as attempts to look more Western or specifically American (e.g. adding a fold to the eyelids using tape or surgery, lightening the skin, and dying hair blond(ish)) actually have a more Japanese meaning.(She also makes a good point by asking why is it that when a Japanese dyes her hair blonde we assume she wants to look American, but when an American kid pierces his nose or wears dreadlocks we say he's showing creativity or multicultural tolerance?) The book also helped me to accept (though not necessarily to understand) that the rock-stars and other overly smooth, tousle-haired guys I'd perceived to be androgynous "girly-man" types are perceived as manly by many young Japanese women.
Throughout, the author provides entertaining descriptions of various esute experiences that she herself, a middle-aged "hairy foreigner", underwent, and of the chicanery of salon owners (which knows no international boundaries). She also has a lot of affection for the extravagant product names (e.g. Shiseido Proudia Face Escort Super Fix UV) and fads (the Karaoke Diet, the Manicure Diet, etc.) that differ from their Western counterparts only by degree, rather than kind. My only regret is that she didn't include more pictures; the book has over 30 illustrations, but she describes many more images and names various celebrities of bygone eras, all of which (or whom) it would have been helpful to see. Nonetheless, you don't need to have a lot of prior knowledge about Japan to get both insight and enjoyment from this book.
Beauty Up: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics Paperback – July 15 2006
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- Paperback : 271 pages
- Item Weight : 408 g
- ISBN-10 : 9780520245099
- ISBN-13 : 978-0520245099
- Dimensions : 15.24 x 1.78 x 22.86 cm
- Publisher : University of California Press; First edition (July 15 2006)
- Language: : English
- ASIN : 0520245091
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,909,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
From the Inside Flap
"This is a very well researched, thoughtful, and engagingly written study of some of the hottest areas of Japan's beauty industry. Always careful to avoid easy generalizations or clichés about Japanese culture, Miller shows both the diversity of Japanese beauty practices and perceptions, and their dramatic shifts in recent years. Her critical yet sensitive descriptions of Japan's consumers and her critiques of Euro-American understandings about them will leave the reader reflecting as much about the 'West' as about Japan."―Takashi Fujitani, author of Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan
From the Back Cover
This is a very well researched, thoughtful, and engagingly written study of some of the hottest areas of Japan's beauty industry. Always careful to avoid easy generalizations or clichés about Japanese culture, Miller shows both the diversity of Japanese beauty practices and perceptions, and their dramatic shifts in recent years. Her critical yet sensitive descriptions of Japan's consumers and her critiques of Euro-American understandings about them will leave the reader reflecting as much about the 'West' as about Japan.--Takashi Fujitani, author of Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan
5 out of 5
4 global ratings
Top reviews from other countries
A. J. Sutter
Gender studies with a sense of humorReviewed in the United States on July 14, 2007
28 people found this helpful
Teresa L. Weeke
Really informingReviewed in the United States on February 27, 2020
Learned a lot of new information I didn’t know... it’s scholarly research... actually an interesting read and kept my attention, wasn’t so academic as to be boring.
Taking a class with the author. She is highly ...Reviewed in the United States on March 10, 2016
Taking a class with the author. She is highly knowledgeable, so this is not just a table top book. This is much more scholarly than the cover portrays.