Are You Attractive in Japan?

Beautiful is being happy with yourself no matter what weight, skin color, or race you are. Beautiful is knowing your worth without confirmation of others.

This week’s guest post comes from Gina, the blogger behind Gina Bear in Japan (which is an awesome blog, by the way, and you should totally check it out!). Gina writes: 

Everywhere in the world, beauty has different standards and bars set so high, they are usually unattainable. What may be desirable in one country may not be in another. Japan is a mostly homogenous nation with a very cookie cutter one size fits all standard of beauty.

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Before coming to Japan, I was considered attractive. Tall, exotic, tan, and Kim Kardashian curvy were words used to describe me. I fit “beauty” in America and enjoyed feeling pretty in my own country. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “What a conceited girl!” Perhaps I was, but living in Japan has been a humbling experience.

When I came to Japan, I was the odd one out. At clubs or social events, men no longer approached me, favoring speaking to my lighter skinned friends instead. Through repeats of above behavior, I began to realize Japanese men didn’t find me attractive at all. I felt ugly, fat, and unwanted. My ego took a hit and I cried about it once after drinking too much Awamori.

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In Asia, white skin is revered and believed pure and healthy. Living on a small island in the middle of the Pacific and the East China Sea, I wonder how this standard is achieved when the sun is constantly shining. My skin is naturally dark as I am half Italian and half Mexican. I couldn’t be white if I tried. Whenever I pass the cosmetic isle at local stores, I see skin whitening products from face wash to sun screen.

As if being tan didn’t count against me all ready, I’m tall… Even in my home country. Standing at 170 cm, I am above average height for a woman in the states. Equaling out to the same height as the average Japanese man with Kim Kardashian curves doesn’t make me an ideal dating candidate—they prefer petite women.

In a country where fat comments are easily passed from person to person, it’s very easy to feel insecure. Many women go on fad diets to be thinner and fragility is a sign of a delicate woman. This reflects in Japanese idols like AKB48—short, white skin, small waists and big eyes. When I see men with their shirts off, I observe ribcage and spine. Women desire long, chopstick legs.

Fashion also reflects the standard of beauty. In America, women expose chest area. This is not considered trashy (depending on how low cut your shirt is) whereas in Japan, the top is covered with the okay on exposing as much leg as possible.

If I go out dressed the way I would back home, in a simple, tight fitted tank top, it elicits the wrong kind of staring, makes me feel exposed and want to cover my entire body. Dressing in Japanese fashion makes me even more uncomfortable because I don’t have thin legs like Japanese women.

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While some argue Japan has a pervert side, I can agree with this. Japanese love breasts and exposing them is considered sexual. Exaggerations of this preference are shown in anime like One Piece. Notice the white skin of the main characters (despite being pirates at sea all day), large breasts, small waists, and relatively flat behinds.

Big eyes shown in anime and make up tutorials are also evident in the Japanese beauty. The gyaru style reflects the desire for bigger eyes. Talking with my coworkers also enforces ideal partners to have larger eyes.

If you spot Japanese women taking purikira, the machine will automatically Photoshop the face to be longer, thinner, and whiter. In regular pictures, women will make a “V” with their hands and place it at their chin to achieve the above effect.

So my question is, how does one achieve transparent white skin, big eyes, a “V” face, small waist, large breasts, and chop stick legs?

The answer… It’s impossible.

Like most standards of beauty in every country, these ideals are unattainable and leave women feeling discouraged and adopting unhealthy habits. Living in Japan reaffirmed I shouldn’t fit the mainstream here or in my home country. My experiences humbled me and pushed me to love me for me and not for what men think.

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What is beautiful? Beautiful is when you look at yourself in the mirror and smile at the person staring back at you. Beautiful is being happy with yourself no matter what weight, skin color, or race you are. Beautiful is knowing your worth without confirmation of others.

Beauty is knowing you are the best you and perfect just the way you are.

Gina is an enthusiastic, quirky teacher on the JET Program living in Okinawa, Japan. When she’s not teaching, she’s Cross Fitting, playing the sanshin (Okinawan banjo), swimming in the ocean or getting lost in translation. Her blog, Gina Bear in Japan chronicles her misadventures living, loving, and traveling on the opposite side of the globe away from her native Chicago. Watch her in action on YouTube (channel = Gina Bear in Japan) for more on Okinawa and living in Japan!

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

52 Comments on Are You Attractive in Japan?

  1. “Love yourself first” is the key for everyone!
    Nothing is more important than self-appreciate.
    I work in Italy as Image Consultant ( in italian language: Consulente d’immagine per donne ) and I always promote, during my workshop, the philosophy of “self appreciate”! If a woman can’t do it I suggest her not to attend to my workshop because I can’t teach her how to like to others if she isn’t the very first fan of herself!

    Good article and interesting discussion!
    Elisa Negro

  2. Wow thank you now I don’t have to be scared when I go to japan thank you I’m really looking forward to go their

  3. Hi! I want to know if 5`6 is tall on Japan am looking for a Japanese love <3 but scared

  4. I really enjoyed the blog. Thank you. I am a Japanese guy, living in California. Since I left Japan 12 years ago, a lof of things in Japan have changed. I took my American fiance to Japan. She was really surprised how skinny Japanese girls are. And she said no one show their cleavage in Japan. Nothing like LA girls. Also super skinny legs.

    Funny part was Purikura. When I was there 12 years ago, I used to use it, too. But no big eye option. So when my fiance and I tried, our eyes got extremely huge. Since she has big eyes already, she looked like ET after the photo shopped.

    She says her proportion is like yours. Even though I am a Japanese, I am not so attracted to Japanese girls. I fell in love with my fiance. I started to date her just because who she was, not how how she looked.

    Anyway, we are looking forward to visiting Japan again next year. We loved finding something new and unique always. Miso soup in vending machines was her favorite!!!

  5. Anonymous // 17 May, 2015 at 10:02 am //

    You know, its kinda strange… Being of Mexican descent myself, my skin is also naturally dark. Some family members of mine have actually made jokes and comments about how dark I am. But when I went to Japan, I got the complete opposite reaction than you. I feel like my self esteem in america was much lower than before I went to Japan. When I was in Japan, I got loads of comments from Japanese people saying how they loved how tall i was. How they loved that my legs were so long. They said i looked like a model and some even tried getting pictures of me when i wasn’t looking. And I got comments from both Japanese guys and girls about how they thought I had a beautiful body. It only got strange once when I was told that while standing naked in a locker room filled with other naked Japanese guys…
    But I was amazed at their reaction because I feel that I am very dark, even by Mexican standards. And after receiving negative comments about my skin from even my own family members, it really took a toll on my self esteem. Going to Japan is what helped me feel better about myself and helped me love the skin I was born in.

    • I’m really excited that you had the opposite experience! Unfortunately for me, I’m not seen as attractive and that’s okay! Japan taught me that loving myself was worth it and that the girl looking back in the mirror had the final say at the end of the day!

  6. Anonymous // 13 March, 2015 at 1:06 am //

    I’m going to Japan next year and since I am French Polynesian (islander) Im naturally very dark. I’m scared of what men and women will think of my skin color and whether I’d be considered prettyr or not. This really helped me out a lot. Thanks!

    • I wouldn’t worry too much! It really depends on the guy! I have Pacific Islander friends who are much darker than I and have wonderful Japanese boyfriends who are open to other cultures and people. Best of luck to you! :)

  7. I actually kind of enjoy the staring, even touching my hair. It might be because when I was little everyone, like black girls white girls Asian girls, touched my hair and try ed to play with it and it never bothered me. It might be because my mom’s a hairstylist, but it makes me feel pretty on the inside. In America I’m so short to everyone (5’1 – 5’2) but in japan I’m alright. I feel I fit in more by standing out in japan. Of course I didn’t have an Asian guy stroke my arm whispering are you asleep? To me while I was trying to sleep. That’s just a little creepy.

  8. It’s also interesting to note that the Japanese who we consider attractive most often aren’t considered so by fellow Japanese. A number of times I’ve commented on an AFWM couple saying, “Wow, a guy like that could never get such a pretty girl in the West”. And my boyfriend would reply that said girl actually isn’t very attractive.

    Everything in the eye of the beholder.

    By the way other beauty standards do exist here. Just look at the fan following of Rin Nakai…

    • Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder. You definitely can’t please everyone, but when I look at women’s fashion magazines I see the same look on a different woman over and over again. I’m going to check out Rin Nakai. Thanks for suggesting it! :)

    • Yeah. The whole attractive/not attractive can get rather complicated and messy when it comes to interracial relationships. It’s very interesting. Everyone seems to have their own opinions about who is “dating up” and “dating down…”

  9. Okinawa! I read your blog on the politics of Okinawa’s US military bases. A good read! You also need to remember that Okinawa was a sovereign kingdom until Japan “annexed” it, and eventually became a site of brutal ground battle during WWII, which killed thousands of Okinawan civilians; so their resentment against the US military presence is not just about their like/dislike of the US military, but about being sick of “used” as a disposable territory by both Jpn and the US.

    As for this post, I feel for you! I, as a Japanese man, go through a bit of reverse process when traveled back from Jpn to the US, where I live & work. I suddenly feel shorter (I’m 5’9″/175cm), skinnier (which is negative in the US), and, thus, uglier than I do about myself in Jpn. (Grace has posted a lot about negative images of Jpn/Asian men in the US.) A good news is, I think my posture becomes better when I am here in the US, b/c I am, unconsciously, trying to look as tall as I can. :-)

    Hang in there! There must be guys (maybe not a large and muscular guy that your prefer, because that is harder to find there) who embrace your beauty!

    • Tama, thank you for reading my post about Dating Military. I wasn’t focused on the politics so much as I was just talking about my experiences dating military men. I did not mention any resentment Okinawans have toward our military because that’s a can of worms I don’t want to open. Having lived in Okinawa for 2 years and visiting various battle sites and museums, I am well versed in Okinawa’s history, thank you.

      In my country, Asian men are not considered very attractive. I believe this is due to Hollywood portraying Asian men as the side kick and the smart one. An Asian man almost always falls inferior to the white man’s power. I’m sorry some people can be so close minded, in my country, but I think its the same in every country you visit. Don’t quote me on this but I think the average man in America is 5’10-5’11. I think as Americans we may just be taller people.

      Thanks for your support! I think my lack of suitors may very well be a blessing in disguise! :)

  10. I truly enjoyed this post and my first thought was “Awamori? Okinawa!!” *g*
    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    I totally hear you. I’ve been here for 7 years and I remember a friend of mine once told me that she really felt unatrractive and “invisible” ever since she came to Japan. She’s Spanish by the way (also darker skin, curves etc.). I never really understood what she meant until I moved here.

    Though it didn’t hit me as hard because I have the feeling that I also never really fit in that much in my home country, either. ;)
    I’m tall (173cm), slim, small breasts, dark hair and eyes. Actually apart from my face, I blend in well here, but I don’t want to. I love having a tan (though being careful about not damaging my skin, of course) and wearing the clothes I feel comfortable in.

    Beauty standards can be very evil in any country, but I think in Japan they’re kind of weird. It’s not just that you have to be petite, but there’s also this “dolly image”, so some women talk in high-pitched voices and try to be uber-cute and all that kind of stuff. T____T

    • Hahaha. YAHS! You got it! Awamori is Okinawan! Have you ever been? :)

      I love being tan too! I think having a bit of color in your skin is healthy. A bit of Vitamin D from the sun is a good way to keep happy!

      Also, I don’t get the high pitched voices either! It’s so strange to me. Have you ever seen Japanese girls having a kawaii party? It’s the best when I see them out in public squealing about cute puppies. I always get a kick out of that.

      Do you know Tsubasa Masuwaka? She looks like a doll and so so many celebrities! All the frills and ruffles! Oh my! I never knew cute sexy was a thing that could be pulled off until I came here. Thanks for reading! :)

      • Haha, just came back from Okinawa a few days ago. :)
        It was my third time there, but I’ve only been to the main island, Miyako, Kume, Yonaguni, Ishigaki, Iriomote, Taketomi, Kuro, Hateruma, Tokashiki, Aka, Geruma and Zamami, so if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them! ^___^

        I haven’t seen a kawaii party yet (not sure I want to *g*), but I totally get it. ;)

        Probably I’ve seen her face on TV, but not sure who she is, but yeah, definitely. Stars always are admired and they try to follow the current beauty ideal more than anyone.

        • I am so jealous of all your wonderful travel. That is totally going to be me in a couple years. I haven’t made it down to Okinawa (yet), but it is high on my list!

        • You’ve been to more outer islands than I have! I’ve been to Taketomi, Ishigaki, Miyako, Aka, Geruma, Zamami, Tokashiki, Ie, Kouri, Sesoko, and Ikei! I highly recommend Ikei. It’s in the middle of the island and very nonmainstream. You’ll me a lot of travelers there from all over the world. Also, go to Ie! It’s got some pretty famous battle sites and a cool mountain to hike.

          Also, Kawaii parties are kind of scary. The high-pitched squealing always makes my skin crawl. But it’s definitely a really funny experience!

          I also find it interesting how beauty is changing very slowly in Japan. I feel like the big Western eyes are becoming more prominent.

  11. My favorite country in the world and I find out I’m hideous. Lol i’d probably just gawk back at them or make a small comment about how gorgeous I am so they’d stop. :3 this was a wonderful post.

    • Thanks, Blu! This isn’t just Japan who reveres white skin. Korea and China are up on this boat too! I love your confident gorgeous comment! :) Cheers! And don’t let this deter you from experiencing the Land of the Rising Sun.

  12. Japan does have different beauty standards, that are hard to attain if you’re not genetically Japanese. Though standards have been becoming more Westernized over time. Narrow bony faces with large round eyes have become desirable, whereas up until before WWII round faces with more Asian eyes were popular. They have always liked white skin though, with women going to great lengths to keep from getting tan in summer!

    It is natural they like small women because men are not very large^^ by the same token, do you find a slim petite Japanese man attractive?

    Actually there is a word for your body type I’ve heard here, ゴージャス、”gorgeous” a loan word also used to describe richness, luxury, overflowing fanciness. At least it’s positive!^^

    • Ria,
      I can definitely agree that everyone has their own preferences. I like Japanese men, but since I do Cross Fit, I am attracted to the Japanese men who are a bit muscular. I guess it depends on the person! :) The first time I’ve heard of ゴージャス has actually been today! What a lovely phrase! Thank you for telling me.


  13. Anonymouse // 19 October, 2014 at 9:50 am //

    So, I am a pasty, pale white. Interestingly enough, it’s the WOMEN I know are the ones who always comment on it and how jealous they are of my skin while the men I know have never said anything about it, or preferring lighter skin. And these men have told me all about their other preferences (short women, women with long hair, ladylike women, etc) so I would think if they had a skin color preference I would have heard about it.

    Aside from fashion (I never had problems showing cleavage, but showing midriff–even accidentally–scandalized my friends), I have encountered everything else you talked about in your article. I’ve had female friends tell me how they think that calf muscles on women are hideous, male friends (and boyfriends!) tell me that they want their girlfriends to be shorter than them (I’m 165cm, so I’m often in the “borderline” height zone) because short women are “cuter”, and I could spend hours talking about the unhealthy way Japan views women’s weight.

    The weight thing isn’t even just about dating preferences or how women feel about themselves, either; I’m just under 70kgs (150lbs) and I had a doctor here tell me to lose weight because I’m fat. When I was in the US I went in for a physical (because I wanted a second opinion on what the Japanese doctor wrote in his report) and I told my doctor what the Japanese doctor had said he LAUGHED at the idea. And while that was the worst incident I had, it wasn’t the only one: when I got health checkups at school here the only time the doctors didn’t say SOMETHING was when I was underweight (between 50kg/110lbs and 54kg/120lbs). I mean, yes, I’m sad that the perception about women and fat makes it harder for me to get a date, but the fact that medical professionals don’t understand that women NEED fat on their bodies is downright frightening.

    And the purikura thing!!! SO MUCH RAGE!!! I used to LOVE purikura back in the day when it was just using cute/funny/cool backgrounds and drawing funny things on the pictures. Then a few machines started doing the skin lightening and eye enlarging crap, so I started avoiding those brands. But now i literally cannot find ANY machine that doesn’t do it. I have dozens of purikura with my friends from school and they make great memories. It makes me so angry that I can’t make memories like that anymore because I can’t find any machines that don’t forcibly rearrange our faces.

    • The purikura thing also bothers me. Every time I go with my husband – I end up looking with a freaky alien and he looks like a girl with super-short hair. We used to go, like, every weekend (unhealthy habit, of course) back in 2011… but gosh, we haven’t been to purikura in at least a year at this point. It just kind of lost its charm, once they were trying to make you look like a doll with pale skin and huge eyes.

      I also had a similar experience at the doctors. I’m about 55 kg and 5’6″ and he told me I needed to lose weight because my thighs looked a little fat. Like… what? I run regularly and do other sorts of exercise. A lot of that “fat” is actually muscle. I couldn’t believe that a doctor would come out flat and say “you’re fat. Lose weight.”
      My sister-in-law recently gave birth and even when she was 6 months pregnant, I STILL weighed more than her.

      • Grace, I have quite a bit of muscle myself! I also can’t believe that a doctor would call someone fat based on their appearance. I thought healthiness was derived from your body fat? You could be as skinny as a stick but have more body fat than a girl with muscle.

        Purikura also definitely loses its charm after awhile but I still have fun putting sparkles on everything. Lol

      • Anonymouse // 22 October, 2014 at 11:17 am //

        ” I’m about 55 kg and 5’6″ and he told me I needed to lose weight because my thighs looked a little fat.”

        Words cannot express how terrible that is. Medical professionals SHOULD know better, but so many of them don’t :(

        Like, I get that muscle here on women is viewed by a lot of people as bad/ugly, but it’s a doctor’s JOB to understand (among other things) that muscle adds body mass. But, then again, they should also know that you can’t get an accurate estimation of a person’s fat percentage by just looking at them and weighing them, not to mention that you can’t tell a person’s fitness and health level from their weight/fat either.

        I mean, there is a serious problem when someone like me–who only knows about this kind of stuff because I’ve researched it on my own–is more educated on the subject than the average doctor. -,-

        • I think so too.
          It also doesn’t help that a lot of bodies are just, well, built differently (or something like that). It’s just… complicated. So I don’t enjoy going to the doctors here. Like, at all.

        • I feel like because many people are racially Japanese, they don’t understand other body types. I guess if you’re not exposed to it, you don’t know any better. I find the doctor here to be an incredibly unpleasant experience as well.

    • I’ve had the same happen to me. A doctor here in Japan checked my blood pressure multiple times and checked my weight.

      When I asked him why he was doing that, he asked me if I was an active person. Ouch… I guess he was calling me fat?

      I feel that the Japanese don’t understand other types of bodies because they’re not used to them. I’m not sure what it is because I’m not a doctor.

      I wouldn’t and still don’t take advice from Japanese doctors when it comes to weight. I’m pretty sure they don’t know what they’re talking about.

      As for the purikura, I still have a lot of fun with it! I think it’s hilarious how you end up looking like an alien when it’s done… Then again, I have a sense of humor for really silly/stupid things.

      It’s too bad most machines photo shop your face. :( I would have liked to try a machine like that before it went photoshop.

      • Anonymouse // 22 October, 2014 at 11:28 am //

        Oh, yeah, I’ve gotten flack for my blood pressure (which, when checked in calm environments by doctors and when I do it myself is fine) because it goes up really high when I’m in a stressful environment. The doctors and nurses don’t seem to understand that immediate stress has a short-term affect on blood pressure, so if their first reading is high and then they wait a bit to take it again it’s not going to go down if you are as stressed (or, in my case, MORE stressed) than you were the first reading.

        “I wouldn’t and still don’t take advice from Japanese doctors when it comes to weight. I’m pretty sure they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

        Pretty much. A lot of GPs here are shockingly ignorant; I’ve even had one who tried to give me antibiotics for a cold! Most of them tend to be older men, too, so part of me wonders if they just never bothered to keep up with modern medical knowledge and practices.

        It was worse for me in the past, though, because for the yearly medical checkups I was at the mercy of my school and later my workplace. Now that I’m the boss, I get to choose where all of us go. The place I found last year seemed pretty okay, and the doctor didn’t say ANYTHING about my weight/health (although I checked the “No, I don’t want any advice on my weight/health.” box, but at least I know he respected that) so I’m planning on using them again this year.

        • I’m glad you can finally control your health checks and what doctors say. They should respect that we’re different. I’m sure going to the doctor and being stressed does raise blood pressure. Going to the doctor here causes me anxiety :(

  14. undankbar // 19 October, 2014 at 3:15 am //

    I can unterstand how insecure you must have felt however being fair isn´t so cool either. I have lived in China and I often felt very uncomfortable because I am very white (at home I am considered sickly looking so I come from the exact opposite direction feeling not pretty at all and trying to get tan – at least a little).
    People approached me all the time to take my picture… a random stranger who is neither famous nor significant… and they often just started touching me/ my skin without asking me. That´s not too nice either for a shy person like me who very much values personal space.

    And the stares where more like I was an animal in a zoo.
    Also I´m 179cm and felt like that (except for a couple of “oh look how tall that foreigner is!”) was never really an issue. It was always about the skin.

    Luckily, after a few months I was able to completely shut out the stares, but the touching would never stop bothering me.

    • I can understand your sentiments from the opposite point of view. Sometimes I get approached for pictures just because I’m a foreigner. It’s a bit unsettling especially because I can understand what they say. Lol

      Also, as I mentioned in my post, you’re beautiful just the way you are! In China, they probably thought your skin was lovely, therefore you were so beautiful! China or not, every girl is beautiful!

      Also, how did you deal with the touching after that?

      • undankbar // 20 October, 2014 at 3:05 am //

        tbh I never knew how to deal with the touching. There was one time in a stuck crammed train, I was really tired fell asleep and the guy next to me started caressing my arm, cooing into my ear “are you alseep” in chinese over and over, inside I was screaming. I couldn´t even get out and leave. So I just kept my eyes closed and hoped the train would start moving again.

        Massages also were really awkward, so I only did that once.

        I did gain confidence – now at home I do feel prettier knowing that in other country my bedsheet white skin is desirable. ^^

        • Oh my goodness! How frightening! I’m sorry you had that experience. Touching people is never right no matter what country you’re in.

          I feel like some people think that because you’re a foreigner it’s okay but it’s really not!

          Always know that what’s on the inside is what makes you pretty.

    • Anonymouse // 19 October, 2014 at 10:13 am //

      It always bugs me how people think that they are entitled to touch a person just because they’re “different” looking. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this happens more often to women.

      I haven’t had many problems with people touching me, but my friend with long blonde hair has random strangers walk up to her and start touching her hair at least once every few months. I’ve also had black friends (all women) who have had white people in the US do the same thing to them.

      I DO get the staring thing, though. I get stared at almost every time I leave my house. They get super wide-eyed, their mouth hangs slightly open, and their head turns so they can continue staring at me while I pass them. One day I am going to lose my shit on someone because after almost 9 years of this crap I am SO done.

      And since my Japanese friends have never put up with ANY of it (not the staring, not the always being handed the English menu without being asked if I want/need it, not the being spoken to in broken English and/or broken Japanese even after I speak Japanese to the person, not the constant condescending “your Japanese is so good!” remarks after I say one sentence, not the “So where are you FROM?” questions nor the “So, you teach English?” assumptions because I’m white), they never understand why I get testy with people or complain to them about how I’ve been treated or whatever. It’s so frustrating because they are thinking that I’m “overreacting” because they’ve only seen ONE of the hundreds of times this has happened to me.

      Erm… Sorry about the novel of a response. But, um… yeah, just my way of saying that you have my sympathy.

      • undankbar // 20 October, 2014 at 3:15 am //

        That hair story sounds familiar! My naturally blonde friend was once stalked by a group of (handsome) hair stylists but when they approached her, they were asking politely if they could touch it, so it was okay.

        I read a lot of frustration in your comment and I totally understand it – as awesome and as amazing asian countries are, if you don´t look like you could be a native you will never blend in. No matter how good the language skills and mannerism are you´ll always stand out and be approached as a foreigner. Go to Europe or the States you blend in (most of the cities) no matter what your colour is, as long as you speak the main language it´s all good.

        If you feel a little angry try staring back. On days when I really was annoyed by some very obvious staring I would stare back and go over to them an ask them if things like “Is this your natural hair colour!? WOW! So black!” :D
        Or just make faces. That often startled them and they´d stop.

        • Anonymouse // 22 October, 2014 at 11:32 am //

          Haha, I like your response! I do stare back, but they never get the hint. Normally I listen to headphones while walking so I don’t bother saying anything, but one day I’ll probably end up just taking them out and giving whoever’s staring at me an earful ^^;

      • I definitely have had my students come up and sneak attack me from behind to touch my hair. I’ll give them slack because they’re my kids, but I do teach them not to do that.

        I actually had a similar experience in Tokyo where some African American men with a French accent tried to grab me.

        It wasn’t until I started cursing and making a scene, they left me alone. As women, we need to protect ourselves from men like that.

        I would take the staring as a compliment. My mom told me if it bothers me just to say, “I know I’m so beautiful!” And flip my hair. They usually stop after that. Try it and see what happens!

        I do agree the “Your Japanese is so good” gets old but some people are ignorant. Some honestly just don’t know any better. And it makes you, think, “Thank goodness because, I do know better! I know a word much bigger than them and this behavior.”


        • Anonymouse // 22 October, 2014 at 11:38 am //

          Hah, I might try it :) Normally I walk around with headphones so I don’t bother to engage. If I were to say something, though, I’d be more likely to politely tell them that staring is rude, though. ^^;

          Well, unfortunately MOST people are ignorant here when it comes to the “Your Japanese is so good” thing :( With strangers I just say, “Well, I’ve been here for 8 years, so…” but I’ve actually sat down and explained to my friends why it’s totally rude to say that even though they mean well. (For the record, all of my friends were surprised at my explanation, even the ones who have regular contact with Japanese-speaking non-Japanese people.) I know it’s something that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t mean I LIKE dealing with it.

          • Sometimes I think they don’t do it on purpose. I think it could also possibly be a foreigner speaking their language is mind blowing because many people here are monolingual. You have the upper hand because you are bilingual.

          • Anonymouse // 24 October, 2014 at 8:41 am //

            I’d say that none of them do it on purpose; they all mean well but because they don’t have to deal with anything similar it’s hard for them to understand how their compliment could come off as rude to someone like me.

            Most people here are brought up to believe that “non-Japanese looking” = “foreigner” and “tourist”, so their interactions naturally follow that assumption (ie. that someone who isn’t visibly Japanese obviously wasn’t born here and obviously doesn’t speak the language). It’s fine if they only ever encounter the types of people who fit their preconceptions, but for those of us who DON’T fit it’s just another reminder that we’ll always be seen first as “foreign”. It’s annoying enough for someone like me who WAS born in a different country and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it is on Japan-born people.

            I mean, I don’t blame the people who do that kind of stuff, or think that they’re evil/bad/whatever. They’re just ignorant and following the script that they’ve been taught. It’s something that needs to change, though, and the only way to do that is to change the script. I don’t have the power to do that on a national level, but at least by talking with my friends I can try and change my local environment.

  15. Inês Faël // 19 October, 2014 at 1:35 am //

    I love this post, especially the conclusion. And I completely agree! I always say “Love yourself first”; I think that kind of confidence is sexy in women and in men.

    The uniformity of thought in Japan may make it harder to find guys who prefer other kinds of beauty besides the “petite, white skinned girl”, but they’re out there, I’m sure.

    And if you read this Gina, damn, you look amazing in that first picture. I dare any guy (Japanese or otherwise) to say you don’t look good in that picture!

    (I just wish I could pull off shorts like you do…) :)

    • Thanks, Ines! That’s really sweet of you. Of course, not all men want white skinned petite girls! I’m sure there are wonderful guys out there who want something different. You are beautiful!

    • Right? I think she looks amazing.

      And I completely agree with the “love yourself first” thing. I think one of the most attractive qualities of, well, anyone is self-confidence. It’s really sexy :)

  16. Very interesting Japan considers beautiful! Great blog post!

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