Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sun Shunners

Japanese people hate the sun. This is not at all unusual to see on a beautiful sunny day:

Umbrellas are ubiquitous in the rain and sun. They even have umbrella stands that are like lockers--put in a coin, get a key. Clothes cover everything not only because people dress more modestly (at least in our small town) but because they want to avoid the sun. Old ladies wear long white gloves up past their elbows. They've created these sun hats (bonnets?) that have a cloth hanging off to protect the neck while gardening. People wear kerchiefs and towels around their necks while walking for exercise. Construction guys are covered head to toe. Even when it's crazy hot my kids often wear their full polyester track suits instead of t-shirts and shorts. You'd think they'd sell sunscreen by the liter but it comes in typically Japanese petite quantities. Who needs it when you're all covered up like that anyways? For being the "land of the rising sun", they sure shy away from it.

I asked one of my teachers about it yesterday and she says it's because they think white skin is more beautiful. I get the sense it shows one's class in a way, kind of like in the 19th century in the western world? In Bali we saw skin whitening creams (these are common in India too) but here they just practice prevention.

Ganguro is a fashion movement that countered this.

Wikipedia describes it like this: Ganguro appeared as a new fashion style in Japan in the early 1990s and to date is prevalent mostly among young women. In ganguro fashion, a deep tan is combined with hair dyed in shades of orange to blonde, or a silver grey known as "high bleached". Black ink is used as eye-linerand white concealer is used as lipstick and eyeshadow. False eyelashes, plastic facial gems, and pearl powder are often added to this. Platform shoes and brightly-coloured outfits complete the ganguro look. Also typical of ganguro fashion are tie-dyed sarongs, miniskirts, stickers on the face, and many bracelets, rings, and necklaces.

It's kind of creepy really, not to mention inappropriate. After all, Ganguro means "black face". Luckily Ganguro peaked in about 2000. Now they're back to sun shunning around here.

As for me, I know the sun is bad--skin cancer is a very real risk. But vitamin D deficiency is real too, especially when I live in a wintery place. Even during the rainy season in June, it seemed the sun rarely came out. When I can get some sun, I like to enjoy it in moderation. It feels divine to have the sun shine on you. I want to wear sunglasses and tank tops and skirts and sandals (sometimes at the same time--gasp!)

I'm taking the middle ground. I wear sunscreen and hats, but I also bike and run around the lake in shorts and a tank top. It's hot out there! My neighbors can stare if they want to--they do anyways. I'm going to enjoy the sun before it turns cold and I'm huddled in front of my kerosene heater again.

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