In this article, "half" refers to a person of mixed race who is half Japanese and half something else. Although for the past 20 years it has been suggested to use "mixed-race" instead of "half", the word "half" is still the most popular term amongst the Japanese. In addition, there are people who believe in a special formula:
Japanese × Non Asian = 1/2 = Good looking".
Not too long ago you read Loco's guest post on what it's like to be a "half child" in Japan. By reading that article you'll learn it's not always great to be a "half" child in Japan, sadly. However, many Japanese girls long for the appearance of a "half"; big eyes, long eye lashes, tall and sharp noses, etc… Since I married a Canadian, I bet you can guess the most common reaction I get from Japanese people.
"Oh, you married a Canadian (a white guy)? Then your child will be"half" and most likely be so cute. Jealous!"
Actually, whenever I talk to someone about my marriage for the first time, 90% or more of their reactions are the same. I personally think that it's fairly ridiculous to say that your baby will be good looking before knowing other things, like if my husband is attractive or not, but it's probably just a form of small-talk that people come up with.
"Half" Taking Over Television
This "half=cute" belief has probably been strengthened by those good looking idols on TV who are know to be "half". I wouldn't be going too far if I were to say that there has recently been a "half" baby-boom rippling across Japan. In fact, there have been so many "half" celebrities on TV over the passed few years that people often get confused who is who. Some of those celebrities even complain about how commonly it occurs.
Not only TV viewers but also those who work in television sometimes believe that there are too many "half" girls and some are worried about losing their position to them. The famous comedian Hiroyuki Ariyoshi, who is known for flat-out-mean jokes, discussed this concern on his own radio program called SUNDAY NIGHT DREAMER and he said some nerd-comedians ("Nerd" because that is the actual style they attempt to portray) are losing their positions on television to these "half" girls.
The rise of cute "half" girls' exposure is partly because there are more mixed-race kids in Japan than there used to be. According to this "List of Statistical Surveys conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare", the number of international marriages in Japan (Japanese with non-Japanese) in the 70's was just 5,500, but it rapidly increased in the 80's when the Japanese economy started bubbling up. Although it peeked in 2006 (nearly 45,000 couples), there were still 23,657 international marriages last year which is over 4 times that of the 70's.
But, this doesn't necessarily explain the disproportionate amount of "half" celebrities on television. Some of it probably comes from the number of "half" children out there, but I wonder if some of it comes from the multi-racial families that they come from. Japanese people are generally known to be fairly shy and timid, which isn't very good for television. However, many non-Japanese ethnicities are known to be much more outgoing and "friendly", which is good for television. The way that "half" children are raised probably makes more of them more outgoing than the average Japanese (as we saw in Loco's article, mentioned above). So, not only are they especially "good looking" with their "half"-look, but they're also more outgoing too. What a perfect combination for a television personality! Of course, this is only just me thinking out loud, but it seems fairly plausible in some situations.
The more that pretty "half" girls are exposed, the more that Japanese girls will want to look like them. Although there may be some Japanese guys who pine for that "half" look, most of them don't put makeup on themselves, so it's harder for them to change their appearance (unless they want to be made fun of for wearing makeup).
Girls, on the other hand, are very makeup capable and some of them are very persistent in their quest look like "half" girls. Those wanna-be-half girls have created various ways to look like like they're "half" or non-Japanese and keep posting how-to videos on Youtube, some being quite popular. I'd like to introduce some of their makeup methods today. It's pretty impressive how drastically they can change their appearance!
God Make Ayano Saito's "Half" Face Makeup
Naokoの秋のハーフ顔メイク！(Naoko's "half" face makeup for fall)
After watching these videos it's clear that the features you have concentrate on are the eyebrows and the eyes. Since Asian faces are flatter compared to non-Asian people's, it's important to make your facial features more 3D. Here's some things that they tend to do to achieve this:
- Drawing their eyebrows thicker.
- Make the space between their eyebrows and eyes narrower.
- Make the inside tip of the eyebrow a little thicker so that it looks less flat.
- Apply many grades of eye shadow, thickener.
- Create longer eye-lines.
- Apply highlight to their nose lines to make them appear taller. In addition to "3D-ifying" their face, color contacts and fake eyelashes seem to be a staple of their tool kit. If you think about it, there's nothing that says "half" or "not Japanese" like eyes that aren't dark brown.
When Makeup Isn't Enough
I'm not totally sure how much time they spend putting their makeup on, but it seems to be quite a lot. I don't typically use makeup myself, except for special occasions, so I admire their passion for this and the time and effort they put forth. However, there are some people who want to look like a "half" but consider it too troublesome to spend so much time on makeup. For those people, there are many plastic surgeons who provide "half-looking" or "foreigner-looking" facial reconstructive surgeries. Takasu Clinic is one of them and you can see their ad for that kind of surgery.
But, paying for these surgeries can be expensive. It is surgery after all! This woman paid over $100,000 to look more Western. It turned out fairly well, but I find it hard to believe that there aren't many problems or mistakes that get made along the way.
I'm really not sure if I can agree with doing this – you should enjoy how you look and be happy with what you've been given. But, I can't pretend to know how people think, it is their bodies after all. I mean, there are some surgeries that make you look more "Western" but also have some practicality as well. For example, getting a surgery to change your eyelids to a double lid is fairly popular. This makes your eyes bigger which makes you look more Western. Plus, when you get older you'll be able to see because your eyelids won't be drooping so much as they start to sag.
Beyond things like that, though, it's taking this craze a little too far, I think. What if one day you wake up and you've suddenly changed your mind? Or what if you go into surgery and they mess up completely? The negatives are just too great. Plus, you should be happy with how you look!
Giving It A Try
After getting all judgemental on you, it's time to make a U-turn and try some of this myself. I don't usually put makeup on (as I mentioned above), but we've just seen a lot of tips so I thought "why don't I try one of them."
There's a problem, though… I don't have any of those makeup staples, such as color contacts or fake eyelashes. Thankfully there is Photoshop, though, so I hit up my virtual makeup artist Aya. Are you ready? Here I go, I'm about to become "half".
Here's without makeup
Here's a little makeup "added"
Now I look half?
The first thing I did when I looked at the pictures above was to say "OMG!" and then laugh. I felt very strange to see myself looking like that. Well, I like the second one, but in the last two pictures where I put the color contacts in and dyed my hair….they looked kind of scary. I forwarded them to my parents and they laughed, too. This experiment turned out to be a great excuse for me to stick with black hair and brown eyes. I like being "natural", after all.
The second picture also made me imagine our future daughter. I don't have any kids now, but if I had a daughter, she might look kind of like her. Thank God my husband doesn't have blue eyes or blond hair, so I guess she won't look like the scary ones…as long as she doesn't put this kind of make-up on!