Anatomy of a Fashion Magazine

Trip Start Jul 22, 2006
Trip End Aug 15, 2010

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Reading fashion magazines has never been among my favourite activities, but I couldn't resist picking one up a few weeks ago, if only to be able to show you all how those here differ from those at home.

For one thing, the Japanese are voracious readers, and the number of magazines published here is incredible.  Any subject you can think of has at least one magazine devoted to it, full of gorgeous, glossy pictures and how-to explanations.  On top of that, there are the weekly, bi-weekly and monthly manga publications, often as thick as phone books, usually with a very specific target audience: are you a 9-year-old girl who likes stories about cute animals?  A 14-year-old boy who likes sports?  A housewife who likes sexy yet tasteful science-fiction?  Then there's a manga digest for you!  Every convenience store has a generous rack of magazines, mostly on fashion, celebrities, sports and manga, but bookstores have that and more, and the bigger ones sometimes seem to have as many magazines as books.

I cheated a bit and chose a magazine aimed at the 18-year-old crowd, so I'm Too Old for some of these clothes, but who cares?  It's a bit hard to think of a North American equivalent, because this is indeed a fashion magazine, in that of its 340 pages, at least 90% are devoted to clothes, accessories and make-up, instead of the mix of articles and features we're used to in Canada.  I like this, though, because I've always found magazines such as Vogue kind of a waste of paper -- for all that they claim to be about fashion, 50% of their bulk seems to be ads, pictures of celebrities or articles about restaurants, clubs and spas.  At least with JJ, I got what I paid for, namely lots of pictures of cute outfits.

Another difference is that there is a bit focus on the "how to".  The Japanese love to learn the proper method to do something (shikata), so there are two-page spreads on how to apply make-up, or pages on how to combine different colours to change the look of a dress.

If you're surprised at how short some of the shorts and dresses are, I assure you that girls do wear them that short.  My father was shocked at how many girls were dressed like strumpets (his exact words!), but I countered that while some show as much leg as possible, their necklines are positively demure.  Japanese women are not curvy, as a rule, and the fashion these days is to layer tops in order to have two or three different necklines visible, so that doesn't leave much room for exposing the chest.  In fact, when I went back to Canada last summer, I was shocked at how much cleavage was on display.

I forgot to take a picture of the horoscope page, but all you need to know is that Hello Kitty represented all twelve zodiac signs.

A final note: Japanese reads top to bottom, right to left, except when it doesn't, in which case it's left to right.  Either way, you always start on the right page.
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