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Variety of Beads and Low Cost Lure Adults, Too

July 16, 1999

Making one's own jewelry means having a virtually limitless choice.

Many people probably share a childhood memory of having made bracelets and necklaces with colorful beads and strings, and perhaps also of having traded these gizmos with friends. Recently in Japan, however, making accessories with beads is becoming a popular pastime even among adults. Until a few years back the selection was quite limited; toy-like glass or acrylic beads in solid colors were the mainstream. But now an immense variety of beads and other accessory parts is at hand, so one can easily make jewelry that does not suffer in comparison to what is sold in stores.

More Variety, More Stores
Over the last two or three years beads made of crystal, glass, metal, precious stone, wood, seashell, and other material have become widely available. These come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes, broadening the kinds of jewelry that can be made at home. Many handicraft stores are setting aside a larger space for beads and accessory parts and are consequently attracting flocks of customers, especially young women.

Small shops specializing in such material are also popping up across Japan. One shop in the fashionable Tokyo neighborhood of Omotesando sells about 3,000 kinds of beads and buttons, as well as a wide selection of strings, chains, ribbons, and other parts for making jewelry. Customers can ask for design ideas and technical instructions from staff. The company running the shop has already opened two new outlets since spring 1999, and at present there are nine outlets across Japan. Many other shops train their staff to offer similar advice, and some even give classes for free.

Making to One's Taste at a Lower Price
Why have handmade bead accessories become so popular? The following comment by a 24-year-old woman may explain why: "Jewelry costs a lot in boutiques, and besides, nothing really caught my eye. So I decided to make things myself." Thanks to the increased variety of beads, it is now possible to make fancy, expensive-looking jewelry that goes perfectly well with adult fashion, even with formal dress. This way, one does not need to compromise for lack of choice by buying items that are not quite to one's taste. What is more, making one's own necklace is cheaper than buying similar items in boutiques.

"All you have to do is come up with a basic pattern using either color, shape, or size as your theme," says the manager of a shop in Kobe offering 2,000 different kinds of beads. The majority of this shop's customers are high school girls and young working women. "What attracts them the most seems to be that with a budget of only about 1,000 yen (8.30 U.S. dollars at 120 yen to the dollar), you can make your own original necklace by simply repeating the same pattern over and over."

A spoonful of glass beads costs between 100 and 200 yen (0.83 to 1.67 dollars), and even crystal beads can be bought for only 20 to 40 yen (0.17 to 0.33 dollars) each. Adding beads of materials like stone and pearl makes handmade jewelry seem expensive, and putting two or three beaded strands upon one another or using beads of several different sizes makes for a gorgeous appearance.

All in all, beads give jewelry a delicate yet buoyant impression and seem to go best on bare skin. As summer progresses in Japan, many young women--and even young men--can be expected to be seen sporting their own original, one-of-a-kind jewelry.

Trends in JapanEdited 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.