While many national economies in Asia are growing at a fast pace, Japan, the most developed country in the region, has been trapped in a protracted recession for years. Despite this general context, the beauty and fashion sectors remained dynamic.

In order to better understand what fuels Japanese women’s interest in this areas, Kanebo has carried out a lifestyle survey on women in Tokyo and in four other major cities in East Asia: Shanghai, Beijing, Taipei, and Seoul.

A portrait of Tokyo women

According to the Japanese cosmetics maker, women in Tokyo place greater importance on their “hobbies” than women in the four other Asian cities covered by the survey. On the work front, they tend to emphasize “personal relationships” and “work-life balance”, while women in the other four cities, emphasize “high income” and “personal development.”

On the one hand, Tokyo women stress personal relationships and are somewhat less concerned with their femininity than women in the other four big Asian cities. When asked what sort of person they wished to be, Tokyo women most frequently responded, “someone considerate to others.” In contrast, women in the other four cities tended to reply “cheerful” and “feminine.”

On the other hand, Tokyo women like to be praised for their appearance, particularly for being “stylish” and having “good taste.” In contrast, women in Beijing, Taipei, and Seoul like most to be praised for their “work ability.” Significantly, only Tokyo women react very positively to being described as “kawaii” (cute).

Attitudes towards beauty

Respondents in all five cities named their “eyes” as their main “attractive features,” followed by skin.

The frequency of makeup use differs considerably from one city to another. In stark contrast to other cities, 80 percent of Tokyo women and 60 percent of Seoul women use makeup either everyday or five days a week. Tokyo women also use the most makeup items, while Seoul women are the most ardent users of makeup bases.

Tokyo women tend to consider makeup as a part of their personal etiquette, a contribution to the quality of their social image, whereas the Seoul women think of it as a means for “concealing defects.” Taipei is close to Tokyo in this regard, while women in Shanghai and Beijing seem to use makeup for more various reasons. “As Japanese women grow older, they may miss out on the pleasure of making up and begin to think of makeup as a social duty,” commented Kanebo’s research team.

A comparison of “preferred makeup styles” revealed a preference in Tokyo for “intricate makeup” with an emphasis on lines that look natural and sophisticated at the same time. Women in Seoul, in contrast, embrace different makeup styles ranging from natural to intricate on different occasions, while Taipei women are inclined to the look of “wearing no makeup” at all.

When asked to name their favourite colours, all women expressed a preference for pinkish tones. However, for eye shadows, Tokyo women preferred beige and brown shades. As a whole, foundation is the most important makeup item for the survey respondents.

Kanebo plans to continue the survey through the comparison of lifestyles of women in Europe and in North America.