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From cute to cool: Young Japanese women turning to mature Chinese-style makeup

The thumbnail of a Chinese-style makeup tutorial video, featuring YouTuber "Shikanoma," is seen. (Photo courtesy of C Channel)

TOKYO -- While Korean-style makeup is booming among young Japanese women amid the so-called third Korean wave, Chinese-style makeup, which features a bolder and more mature look, is also starting to spread, as some youths are beginning to pursue a new ideal of womanhood.

Chinese-style makeup aims to create a sharp and chiseled look by contouring and adding brightness using cosmetics such as bronzers and highlighters for a healthy glow, and drawing defined eyebrows. The skin is made pale for a porcelain appearance, and a soft shade of blush is applied. People often use dark red lipstick. To put it more simply, it resembles a look of Chinese actress Fan Bingbing.

According to beauty media MimiTV Inc.'s media director Fuka Itagaki, 22, it is traditionally regarded as standard for a Japanese woman to put on pigmented blush and curl their lashes for a cute and feminine look.

The thumbnail of a Chinese-style makeup tutorial video, featuring YouTuber "Shikanoma," is seen. (Photo courtesy of C Channel)

Itagaki says Chinese-style makeup, however, focuses on "achieving an appearance that is as elegant, cool and mature as possible." She explained that it lacks the "round" look, often seen in conventional Japanese makeup, and is closer to sharp Western fashion. While Korean makeup appears more mature than its Japanese counterpart, it still centers around cute and innocent features.

Until recently, people in China lacked the opportunity to spread information abroad, and it was rare for those in Japan to know about Chinese trends, because social networking services (SNS) that are commonly used in Japan, such as the photo-sharing app Instagram and Twitter, are blocked in China.

According to Rio Watanabe, who works at the editorial department of beauty and cosmetics website Make It, a video-sharing service called TikTok, owned by a Beijing-based firm, was introduced to Japan in 2017. Since then, people in Japan have had more chances to see makeup and fashion practices used by Chinese women and the trend began to gradually spread in this nation.

The thumbnail of a Chinese-style makeup tutorial video, featuring YouTuber "Shikanoma," is seen. (Photo courtesy of C Channel)

Furthermore, people in Japan started to use the terms "wanghong," referring to Chinese internet influencers, and "Chiborg," meaning beautiful Chinese women who look like dolls, on SNS at the end of 2018.

MimiTV employee Itagaki says abundant information on Chinese-style makeup has been circulating on Twitter and Instagram since around May 2019. It spread even more after tutorial videos of Chinese-style makeup began to be posted on YouTube.

"Shikanoma," 21, who shares information on makeup mainly on YouTube, started posting such videos in May 2019. While she initially had an interest in South Korean idols, she also turned her attention to Chinese stars, as Chinese members started to join in South Korean idol groups several years ago.

A video she posted after studying how Chinese influencers put on makeup on TikTok was promptly went viral. Her videos, related to Chinese-style makeup, had garnered as many as 600,000 views as of Dec. 24, 2019. Viewers come from a wide age group, ranging from 18 to 34.

MimiTV Inc.'s media director Fuka Itagaki, who prefers cool-looking makeup and is interested in Chinese-style makeup, is seen in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward on Oct. 16, 2019. (Mainichi/Motomi Kusakabe)

When asked about this charm and trend, Shikanoma explained, "Chinese-style makeup expresses the inner strength and confidence of a person and it feels new here. I think the concept of a 'cool woman' is becoming widespread in Japan nowadays. I also yearn to be a strong-willed woman."

According to Make It employee Watanabe, Japanese women in recent years have been favoring makeup that appears both beautiful and strong, instead of just portraying a cute look to attract men.

She analyzed, "At the beginning of 2019, an online service allowing people to create their own illustration of a 'strong woman' was a big hit among smartphone users. As Korean-style makeup had already become the standard look, the more mature makeup worn by Chinese women may have been a new concept for Japanese women."

MimiTV employee Itagaki speculated that the new style is trending "thanks in no small part to a general atmosphere to respect diversity and value individuality." Many women's magazines in Japan used to have contents that were conscious about appealing to men, but they have recently started to introduce materials to suit various tastes.

"We've been told 'you must have double eyelids' and 'it is important to have long lashes,' but makeup for single eyelids has come into fashion now. Chinese-style makeup probably gained popularity amid diversification of the (makeup) genre," said Itagaki. She says there is a move in Japan to pursue makeup that matches one's respective personality.

Shikanoma commented with a smile, "I don't care what men think at all. I want to value my own individuality. There's a lot of people who have a sense of discomfort about existing information (on makeup), and many others who want to get out of their comfort zone. That's what I, too, feel is refreshing about Chinese-style makeup."

(Japanese original by Motomi Kusakabe, Foreign News Department)

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