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Skin Is the Canvas for Body Art

November 15, 2000
Flower patterns are among the most popular designs for body art.

Young Japanese women are no longer content just to bare their skin; they want to decorate it, too. Since the camisole boom a few years ago, young Japanese women have not been afraid to bare their skin. Now, fashion-conscious females are in the grip of the next craze: decorating that skin. In the summer of 2000, women sporting a variety of body art on their arms and chests could be spotted all over Japan.

Body Art in All Its Guises
One method of body art is body painting using cosmetics and colorings specifically designed for drawing on the body. Popular motifs include butterflies, roses, and hearts. The wearers sometimes repeat the designs to create patterns, or apply glitter spray over them to make them sparkle.

Another form of body art is decal-type tattoos, which come in a variety of designs and are easy to transfer to the skin. The user simply soaks the decal with alcohol and applies it to the desired surface. Recently, in addition to bold designs mimicking traditional tattoos, ethnic and floral motifs also came on the scene. Decal tattoos can be removed easily by scrubbing.

Then there is body jewelry: rhinestones and glitter backed with adhesive that allows them to be applied directly to the skin. Rhinestones, which once could be worn only on a chain or finding, are showing up in the most unlikely spots--the backs of the hands, the tops of the shoulders--leaving less fashion-savvy onlookers to wonder, "How on earth did she get a rhinestone to stay there?"

Priced affordably between 500 yen (4.55 U.S. dollars at 110 yen to the dollar) and 5,000 yen (45.45 dollars), all these forms of body art are fairly affordable. They are also easy to remove. Even pigments that are designed to last a while and do not come off in the shower or swimming pool fade naturally in about three days, because they color only the outer layer of the skin. Another advantage is that these types of body art can easily be applied by the wearer herself--unlike, for instance, nail art.

By virtue of being so easy to use, body art has steadily caught on among a generation of young women that is not averse to baring its skin. Because temporary body art is a much more accessible pleasure than tattoos, which require a lifelong commitment, the body-art trend, having started among those not afraid to stand out from the crowd, has spread to women who would normally consider themselves followers rather than leaders. Even some members of the generation that tends to be a little shy about baring its skin in public have begun to decorate themselves with lavish body art for special occasions, such as visiting beaches or resorts or attending parties.

Expanding Canvas for Body Art
Body art has been made possible by advancements in coloring and adhesive technologies. Another trend has appeared, meanwhile, that takes advantage of hair-removal technologies: underarm art. Leading beauty salons lit the touchpaper for this new form of body art, which can only be applied to smooth underarms from which the hair has been completely removed. Though the method used to create underarm art is the same as that used to create other forms of body art, the former involves considerable time and expense. Suitable only for people who have had their underarm hair permanently removed, this form of body art cannot be completed in a day.

In autumn 2000, the canvas for body art expanded to include the face. While lipstick that does not come off easily has existed for some time, now cosmetics makers have succeeded in developing lipstick that does not come off, period, even when the wearer eats or drinks. This lipstick can be used to create detailed pictures and patterns, such as a tiny floral motif along the edges of the lips. Right now, many people who do not understand the appeal of such ornamentation are asking why on earth anyone would want to make up their face like this. But, like other forms of body art, once lip art has been around for a few months, people may not find it so strange.

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2000 Japan Information Network. 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.