Compared to other countries, the non-Japanese who live in Japan for a long time will notice that there are a lot of customs which follow a somewhat old Japanese tradition. As a matter of fact, only by watching a Japanese series you would notice this immediately! This was evident throughout my stay in Japan. One of their traditions is to try to blend in with the people and not out stand too much from them. Many of the Japanese believe that if they follow the customs, they can live peacefully in the society. Hence why there is a meme on how Japanese are strict with standing and waiting in line. They believe in equal respect for others and to always be kind to others. One famous example is by bringing a gift (usually food) when visiting another person’s house. This is indistinguishable with our custom!
I believe this is one of the reasons why Japanese do not prefer to have dark skin, or rather avoid being dark, as it is pretty unusual in Japan. For a long time, in the Japanese society, having white skin is one of the features of beauty and is regarded as a “beautiful” for women. They believe that by having fairer, or whiter, skin colour could help them cover their unattractive features. Even in the famous sayings in one of the children’s well known Disney movie, “mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?”, “Snow White” answered the mirror. Growing up, children are being instilled in their minds to believe that being fairer and having light skin is considered “beautiful” and princess-like.
While living in Japan, they did not fail to paint the image of wanting that light coloured skin. On trains, they would advertise the importance of applying sun lotion before you leave the house. They also promote wearing bigger hats to help block the sun from shinning to their face. This was evident throughout my stay, walking to my university at that time, I would see most women and even little girls wearing big hats, masks, an umbrella, sunglasses and spray to help block the sun while walking in the streets of Tokyo.
The Japanese media and cosmetic industries instilled in women’s mind that an amount of sunshine can damage their skin. Therefore, Japanese women try to avoid being exposed to sunshine even for a few seconds. Although, it is good to protect ourselves from the harmful UV rays, but I strongly believed, the true reason behind it is to avoid them from getting darker and because, simply, everyone is doing it! I believe another factor to their “description of being beautiful” also comes from the screen, where they mostly hired a lot of actresses and models with beautiful fair and flawless skin, making it a role model to all.
You can imagine the struggle I went through in their local drug store looking for foundations and found all the colours were too limited. I wouldn’t say I’m too dark nor am I too light. I’m more of the in between. Neutral and very… asian. Although, it would not be fair to solely based this light skin culture in Japan, majority of the Asian community (South East Asians included) prefers to be fairer too than being tanned. Taking something close to me, I have a friend who would go through lengths to get any whitening products in hopes that it’ll brighten her skin even more!
Sometimes, I don’t really understand why people are too obsessed with being light skinned, but it is important to note that in Japan, skin colour does not affect social status or salary. People favour to have white skin just because they believe lighter skin is more beautiful and that is what other people say. To me personally, the Japanese need to rethink what beauty means to them and not based on what people follow.