Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What makes you beautiful.

"Lovely nuts and berries, and bits of garbage that I will now proceed to pick out from behind this net placed here precisely to prevent me from doing so! They will definitely give you a nice shiny coat of feathers like mine. Aren't you jealous?"
...says the crow above. But let's disregard him for now, since he isn't the real topic of this post!

When I first arrived in Tokyo in late summer of 2009, one of the first things that stood out to me was the way people here carried themselves - namely, in appearance. There were people donning crazy and colorful fashions in the train, packed right next to businesspeople in pristine suits and shiny leather shoes. There were people wearing lolita outfits, rockish outfits, and sexy outfits that looked like they came right out of a magazine. But what almost everyone had in common - they really seemed to spend a lot of time on their appearance.

I'm not saying this is true for absolutely everyone living in or around Tokyo. But being from the California Bay Area, and having just moved over from Berkeley, where students lived in their sweatshirts, jeans, and flip-flops, this was quite a cultural adjustment to make.
For one thing, the makeup. Now, apart from putting some on for dances, parties, or special occasions, I usually went through daily life with zero makeup. This is what I was used to. I held the belief that girls don't need to decorate their faces or hide their blemishes in order to look pretty.

But now, I began to see girl after girl with carefully done makeup, sparkly nails, long fake eyelashes, fashionable and girly dresses, tights, high heels... I remember having a talk about this with a friend before actually moving over to Tokyo, but being right in the middle of it was a different story. I started to see - this was a different standard of appearance and beauty. Here in Tokyo, this is what people believed was "beautiful". The more effort you put into it, the more valuable your beauty was. This was a sharp contrast to the concept of "natural beauty" that I was used to before. I even started to get confused sometimes, as to whether I was just being young and naive, and that this is what the working world in a metropolitan area was supposed to be like? As in.. common manners?

Well, after being here for several years, I have to say that my views have changed a little. I'm not against makeup, but I usually don't use it in my daily life at the moment. I do think it's fun to decorate and add some accents when going out on the weekends, going shopping, special events, etc. (I'm wearing some eyeliner, eyeshadow, and slight cheek color in the photos below.)
And although everyone has their own needs and views on makeup, (I was even told by a previous Japanese company I worked at, that I should wear makeup to work!) I personally think that there are other things which contribute to beauty.

How about the easiest and most effective accessory for beauty - your own smile?

If you keep busting out your own unique, sexy smile, people won't know what hit them!
And of course, I don't mean that you should have to work hard and create a facial pose. 
I mean that no one else in the world has your own special smile. 
And just that can light up someone else's day, even for just a few minutes.

What kind of face are you wearing when you laugh in delight at something or someone you love?

 Or when you make a new discovery, no matter how insignificant or common it may seem?


Embrace yourself for who you are underneath the makeup and clothing.
I believe those things can be great for giving you confidence and lifting your spirits at times,
but you shouldn't feel vulnerable or ugly without them.

I still feel out of place sometimes, when I'm walking the streets of Shibuya or a fancy shopping district,
on the train or in a station, and passing those who are really amazingly dressed and made-up.

But being in an environment like this, 
I've also come to appreciate even more what makes people truly beautiful - 
their smiles, their personalities, their passions and interests.

Their stories, their hopes and dreams.

Don't forget
what truly makes you beautiful.
It's inside, glowing and shining its way out,
and no one can take that from you.