Previously, it was TV drama "Winter Sonata" that captivated middle-aged and elderly Japanese women. But now, it's teenage girls and women in their 20s who are at the center of a cultural wave known as Hallyu. These women use social media to adopt South Korean makeup and fashion trends.
South Korean cosmetic chain Etude House opened a major store in 2016 on the bustling Takeshita-dori avenue in Tokyo’s Harajuku district. Young women stream into the store, which sells popular South Korean products such as vivid-colored lip tint and cushion foundation to create dewy skin.
A 17-year-old high school student in Tokyo said: "The cosmetics sold here have vivid colors that are not seen in Japanese cosmetics. The cute look [they create] is nice on social media."
More and more people are paying attention to Korean-style "olchang" [beauty] makeup, to create a look with bright and clear skin, thick eyebrows and vivid-colored lips. Etude House opened seven stores in 2017 in the Tokyo metropolitan area and the Kansai region.
Rina Matsui, the brand general manager of Amorepacific Japan Co.’s Etude division, said: "There are many young people who enjoy using unusual makeup colors just for fun. They are also affordable."
The presence of South Korean-made cosmetics has increased in the Japanese market. According to the Japan Cosmetic Industry Association, imports from South Korea amounted to about ¥17.4 billion in 2016 — an increase of 30 percent or more on the previous year.
Brightly colored clothes
South Korean fashion brand Stylenanda opened a Harajuku outlet in May last year, also on Takeshita-dori. Stylenanda, which sells women’s clothes and cosmetics, held a fashion show in autumn as part of the Tokyo Girls Collection event, which is popular with young women.
"South Korean fashion and pop culture are striking a chord with the social media generation," said Kota Maruyama, the general manager of Shibuya109 Entertainment Inc.’s marketing strategy headquarters.
The Shibuya109 fashion store in Shibuya, Tokyo, selects models who are influential with young people for its promotional campaigns, which happen three times a year. A popular South Korean pop group has been chosen for three consecutive campaigns since last winter. K-pop group BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, have been appointed for the Christmas campaign.
About 20 South Korean brands making their debut in Japan were on display until late December at the building’s event sales section. Customers were mainly teenagers.
"Young people learn about new brands introduced to Japan via social media," Maruyama said, adding, "They are brightly colored and affordable and have all the elements that attract young people."
In a questionnaire conducted on teenage girls by Fril lab., which researches young people’s consumption behavior, about half of the respondents answered "South Korea" to the question, "Which country do you use as a reference for fashion?"
Japan’s fashion magazines for young women regularly feature South Korean fashion. K-pop fashion and cosmetics featured in the October issue of SCawaii!, published by Shufunotomo Co. Editor-in-chief Kazumi Kageyama said: "Using Hangul for hashtags on Twitter and Instagram has become popular recently. Hangul apparently looks cute and fashionable."
More and more young people have been visiting the Shin-Okubo area of Tokyo, which is known as Koreatown. When I visited recently, there was a line of people in front of a restaurant specializing in cheese dalk galbi, a popular Korean dish of sweet and salty chicken with melted cheese. Even on weekday evenings, a wait time of 90 minutes is the norm.
At a cafe where customers can watch music videos of idol groups, I ordered a soda that had been poured into a container shaped like an electric light bulb, and an overflowing bowl of Korean-style shaved ice. They looked so nice that I couldn’t help taking photos of them and posting them online.
Makeup, fashion and foods from South Korea, where social media is extremely popular, are spreading among young Japanese people.