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Japanese Women Return Their Hair to Its Roots (January 30, 2006)

Hamasaki Ayumi shows off her new look. (Jiji)
For nearly a decade now, trendy Japanese women (and a considerable number of men, too) have been coloring their hair various shades of brown or blonde. But this winter, black hair is back in style. Last fall, when pop singer Hamasaki Ayumi colored over her trademark bleached-blonde tresses, women followed suit in droves, sparking a sharp increase in Japan's black-haired population. Nowadays, changing one's hair color is an established element of fashion, and in this respect, the black-hair craze is no different from the brown/blonde one that preceded it. However, as many women are discovering (or rediscovering), black hair has many inherent advantages.

A Natural Complement to This Season's Fashion
The western image of the Japanese woman typically includes long, straight black hair and dark eyes. In the latter half of the 1990s, however, brown-dyed hair came into vogue. The trend endured for nearly a decade because lighter-colored hair was seen as giving the face a brighter appearance and being easy to coordinate with European and American fashion and makeup. In recent years, brown hair had become so normal among Japanese young people of both sexes that it was sometimes hard to find youngsters who had kept their hair black. Even hair lightened all the way to blonde was no longer an unusual sight. But this winter, the population of black-haired women has risen substantially.

Although some women say they reverted to glossy black hair because they were simply tired of brown or blonde, the prime force behind the trend was pop singer Hamasaki Ayumi, whose influence among young people extends to the realm of fashion. Hamasaki says she changed her trademark blonde mane to black because black is the "in" color this winter. Besides fitting in with the current black-on-black look, dark glossy hair also complements this season's Victorian- and military-inspired styles. Celebrities known for their beautiful, long black hair are further fueling the craze, including singer Nakashima Mika and actress Nakama Yukie, along with two non-Japanese actresses who are very popular in Japan as well as in their home countries: Zhang Ziyi of China and Choi Ji Woo of Korea.

Hair That Is the Envy of the World
Another factor prompting many Japanese women to bring their hair back to its original color is the renewed recognition of the innate beauty of black hair. Asience, a high-end shampoo launched by Kao Co. in 2003 under the catch phrase, "Hair that is the envy of the world," became an instant hit. Now more and more women are heading to beauty salons to have their hair colored black. This trend is particularly pronounced among women whose hair has been damaged and turned reddish-brown at the ends by daily exposure to the heat of curling irons. These women now know that lightened hair is damaged hair, and they want to hide such damage and regain the unique luster of black hair.

But not everyone is settling for plain black. Black coloring treatments that include highlights of other colors (for example, pink or dark brown) are also popular. With these treatments, which require a bit more time and skill than a straight black coloring job, the hair appears simply black at first glance but reveals other hues when it reflects light. Black with highlights offers the best of both worlds: the fun of coloring the hair, plus the natural appeal of ebony tresses. Black hair also makes the face and head appear smaller. (Japanese women have considered a small face to be a desirable beauty attribute for some years.)

Young people these days seem to change their hair color as readily as they change their clothes, but the switch from brown to black appears likely to continue for a while.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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