The Japanese are hands down the most fervent people on the face of this planet, especially a Japanese woman. Picture it if you will a train zipping by at 300 Kilometers an hour, a car racing down the highway or a press conference being hosted by the Japanese prime minister. What do they all have in common, you might ask? Well in almost any of these scenarios you are destined to see a young lady, with a mirror balanced precariously on her knee, her caboodle out and open for business and either her, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, face cream, hair cream, comb, or all of the above being applied with exquisite delicacy and no regard for her surroundings.
Yep, Japanese women are no doubt some of the prettiest around, and no wonder. Almost no other group spends as much time or money buying and applying beauty products as the Japanese. I have seen a taifun down power lines and shatter windows, but not even budge one strand of a Japanese woman’s hair. Big hair didn’t die in the eighties, it merely moved to Japan where it found its true home.
Yet all this pales in comparison to the Japanese fashion sense. Picture it. Honshu winter 2008, just hit -10 degrees Celsius and the weather forecast calls for all day snow. You gear up, you throw on your thermals, your sweaters, several pairs of socks and pants, don a heavy jacket and ear muffs, gloves, scarf, heating pads, and whatever else you can throw on. You push your door open and are swamped by a mini avalanche that has been piling up outside. You fight your way through, run your errands and just manage to make it to the nearest diner where you buy a cup of coffee and try to thaw out.
Over your second cup, you try to steel yourself for the eventuality of stepping out while you mentally make a quick plan on how to avoid dying of hypothermia. Cradling your coffee, in the hopes that the warmth from it might thaw your fingers, you look out the window, and what do you see? A girl, walking by, wearing a stylish fur trimmed white jacket that stops just below her bust. This is a jacket that has been designed solely for looks and zero functionality. It’s the type that couldn’t be fastened in front if a group of wrestlers were trying. Underneath is a white spaghetti strapped dress, with a low cut neckline, carefully revealing her rather ample cleavage ($2,000 in Brazil or about $10,000 in Tokyo).
The dress is short enough to make a tennis star blush. Her hair is perfectly coiffed and dyed a shimmering gold. Her Paris Hilton style sun glasses are resting carefully on her face and reveal nothing. Her skin looks like well polished bronze and her legs seem to go on forever. Does she look cold? You bet your bottom dollar; but more importantly does she look HOT! You could bet the whole bank on that.
But reality bites; time after all marches on; and time is money, which is probably why the café owner is shooting you a look that says either you order something or get the hell out. Sighing you grab your scarf and fight your way into your jacket. You’re about to go back out into the cold when you spot a polar bear shivering to death on the stool next to you. He throws you a quizzical look and asks, “You’re not seriously thinking about going back out there, are you?” Now there is a lot to be said about polar bears, but one thing they do know is cold. You think better of it, take off your coat once more, sit down, and offer to buy the polar bear a coffee. “Good man,” he replies, taking you up on the offer.
Eight cups and several heart palpitations later you ask your companion, “You think that girl is a J-Pop-sicle by now?” The bear smiles at this poor play on words and finishes the rest of his cup in one draught. “She probably is,” he says, finally. Still finding it hard to comprehend that someone could have dressed like that in winter, let alone left their house, you wonder aloud, “How did this country become a world power?” The polar bear looks at you, sadly nodding agreement. “You know, I was just thinking the same thing.” he says. “Want another coffee?” he asks. “My treat.”
Rico-san is a Jamaican Samurai and English teacher touring Japan