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"Transformation" Services a Hit

April 6, 2001
Customers can have their post-makeover selves fashionably photographed at "transformation" studios. (OPSIS)

Surely there are many people who have a secret desire to discover a different, radiant self. Recently in Japan, studios that help people instantly realize this ambition have become all the rage. The affordability of such makeovers, which are offered for as little as 2,000 yen (16 U.S. dollars at 125 yen to the dollar), has further fueled their popularity. Some of these services take the form of photo studios where customers can have their face and hair made up before professional photographers take fashionable pictures of them. Curiously enough, their clientele comprises not only women who wish to become beautiful but also men looking to transform themselves.

Affordable Services
The most popular services at these henshin (transformation) studios, as they are often called, are face makeup and hairstyling. One such studio called 15 min biew's (15 Minute Views), in the fashionable Tokyo neighborhood of Minami-Aoyama, is famous for its 15-minute speed makeup. Customers can bring along magazine clippings of their favorite actress or model and ask to have their faces made up like the photo.

As full makeup costs only 2,000 yen, some 3,000 customers use the studio each month. Their ages vary widely, with some in their twenties and others in their sixties. Recently a growing number of men have been frequenting the studio to receive eyebrow trimming services and massages.

The company that owns the studio is actually an apparel maker. It set up the studio adjacent to its boutique, which specializes in shirts and blouses, in the hope of drawing customers to the boutique. The sideline business proved amazingly popular, so the company decided to open more studios in several other downtown areas. "Professional makeup lasts longer than my usual makeup," enthuses one female office worker who frequently visits the studio. "When people tell me that I look pretty, I feel more confident about myself."

Photography Services, Too
There are also photography studios for people who want to record their post-makeover selves for eternity. At Konica Make-up Photo Studio Folia, a studio inside the popular shopping mall Venus Fort, a beautician first touches up a customer's makeup and hairstyle. A photographer specializing in commercial photography then takes professional pictures of the customer. One gravure-type photo of A5 size (148 millimeters by 210 millimeters) showing the client in a pop-star pose costs from 3,800 yen (30.40 dollars). Processing is quick, as a digital camera is used. For an additional fee, customers can have wrinkles and blemishes erased on-screen.

Here, too, the customers are not all young women. Sometimes couples come to have photos taken together, and the shop occasionally receives older customers in their fifties or sixties. About 30 people use the studio on weekends.

Another studio in Hibiya, OPSIS Make-up & Photo Studio, provides similar services, as well as courses designed for men. Male customers can have their complexion refined with foundation, their eyebrows trimmed handsomely, and a photograph taken for 7,000 yen (56 dollars). According to the studio, many of the customers use this service to take portraits for resumes, apparently reflecting the rise in Japan's jobless rate in recent years. The studio suggests this also shows the importance of good looks to Japanese people today.

One sociologist says of the popularity of these "transformation" studios, "Today the Japanese emphasize individuality, and perhaps this has given many people the desire to discover a new self, different from the person they usually are."

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2001 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.