People watching – Tanned skin

While visiting the Hachiko statue in Shibuya, I noticed a Japanese girl with tanned skin. Both her skin tone and overall styling caught my attention and I snapped a picture of her.

japan tanned skin

Japanese girl with tanned skin

In Japan, the classic beauty ideal is to have a skin that is as pale and white as possible. To achieve this look, Japanese women go to extreme lengths to avoid sun exposure and use whitening products, referred to as bihaku 美白. This preference for white skin is believed to stem from past times when poor people worked the land and had tanned skin, while rich people stayed indoors and thus had lighter skin. 

sekkisei by kose skin whitening japan

One of the most popular skin whitening product line in Japan is the Sekkisei line by KOSE

The girl in the first picture, however, has a perfect tan, which leads me to believe that she purposefully went for this look with tanning creams or sessions in a tanning salon. Given the Japanese preference for pale skin, her skin tone stood out.

After doing some research on tanned skin fashion trends in Japan, I discovered two trends. The first one is Ganguro, which was popular from the mid-1990’s to about 2000. Ganguro is characterized by a dark tan and contrasting make-up. The trend died out in 2000, when the sudden popularity of pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki sparked a renewed interest in white skin.

ganguro japan tanned skin

Ganguro fashion trend with tanned skin and contrasting make-up

ayumi_hamasaki

The popularity of pop singer Ayumi Hamasaki, with her perfect pale skin, contributed to the popularity of bihaku skin whitening products

The other trend is B-style and seems to be a more recent thing. In B-style, Japanese youngsters try to imitate the look of American hip-hop stars, aspiring to look as much like Afro-Americans as possible. Dutch television show Metropolis made a short documentary on the subject. This trend is far from mainstream however, seeming to revolve pretty much around a single store in Tokyo called Baby Shoop.

b-style tanned skin

B-style is a trend where Japanese people try to look like Afro-American hip-hop stars. It is only a very small subculture.

Looking at the girl in my picture, she doesn’t seem to be belong to any of these two trends. She has tanned skin but pretty subdued make-up compared to Ganguro style. Her clothing seems quite provocative to me, but then again, the metropolis Tokyo isn’t the same as provincial Toyota City or conservative Nagoya to which I am used to, so maybe in Tokyo this look isn’t quite so outrageous? I would love to get other people’s perspective on this, to see how they perceive this look and how it would look to a Japanese person. Feel free to join the discussion in the comments section.

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