Just as the very rich, to paraphrase Fitzgerald, are different from the rest of us, so is Japan.
Let's look, for example, at the ways some Japanese cope with insecurity about their appearance. As attractive as the Japanese are, many of them seem to dislike their looks. So they turn, naturally, to technology, since Japan is, of course, the global home of technology used oddly (Tamagotchi, anyone?). And when technology is applied to insecurity, you get things like this.
This is the Hana Twin Nose. No, I don't know why it's called that, although I suppose sisters (or just good friends) could each buy one and, over time, produce twin noses. Its manufacturers call it "a much cheaper alternative to plastic surgery and it doesn't hurt either!" And it's obviously convenient, attractive, and comfortable to wear. This appears to be the version designed for mouth-breathers.
The Meijikara Anti-Wrinkle Glasses. Imagine combating the pernicious effects of aging with these cheery yellow specs. What could be easier? And, just in case you're skeptical, the company that makes them hits that nail square on the head, saying, "It might seem like another wacky Japanese invention but in fact the Mejikara has been a sleeper hit here."
I actually find it reassuring that insecurity is so universal. When I was growing up, I thought I had the market cornered. Everyone else seemed so comfortable. But look at these products. Presumably, each was the subject of a business plan, and the most essential component of a business plan is identifying and quantifying the customer base. If money actually talks, what it's saying here is that there are lots of us who are unhappy about the way we look!
But here's an entirely new level, at least as far as I'm concerned. They're Japanese (of course) and young (because who else's self-esteem is so disastrous?) and maybe a little geeky--members, in short of the otaku subculture, obsessed with manga and video games. For them, the easiest way to--well, ask for a date, for example--seems to be to do it while their faces are completely covered with a manga mask. Here are two photos of a dating club that people attend wearing masks of their favorite characters in order to have the nerve to ask each other out.
And once they've made their choices, filled in the forms or whatever those pieces of paper are, off they go for an unforgettable night on the town.
Basic Hypnosis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¥1,000
Diet Suggestion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¥2,000
Traumas Erasure . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ¥5,000
Stop Smoking Suggestion . . . . . . . . . . .¥2,000
Former Life Regression. . . . . . . . . . . . .¥15,000
If this were an American chain operation and you planned to rattle up more than one former life, you'd probably have to sit in a booth and order something for each of them.
And last of all, here's something (other than former life regression) I could actually use. More to the point, it's something my wife, who reclines for hours watching movies with her laptop balanced on her chest, could use. Imagine: a whole day, flat on your back, online, using this simple, if somewhat precarious-looking, stand.
www.japantrends.com. But don't log on if you haven't got browsing time, and be careful drinking fluids over your keyboard because odds are pretty good you're going to laugh. And the site is inspiring, too; the Japanese are so endlessly ingenious and so practical, in ways that occasionally amaze me.
Tim -- Sunday