Being in Japan makes a woman feel beautiful. Everywhere you go, you see gorgeous men and women. In the neighborhood where I’m staying, embassies are nearby so people on the street dress especially well.
Come to think of it, everywhere in Japan I have visited, both during this trip and my six previous ones (all sponsored by VOICE) I have seen wonderful fashion choices, elegant creativity, huge sartorial finesse.
In such surroundings, one begins to feel a contagious elegance. It’s like being in Paris, only the people are my size.
Yet, in all candor, I must report on two close encounters with pretty dubious beauty products.
THE MAGICAL CREAM
Normally, I’m like a kid in the Tokyo subways. With all the colorful advertisements, all I can do is read the pictures. Saturday night, however, Chikako-san was with me. She’s impossibly elegant, tall and slender; probably she’d be as photogenic as Greta Garbo if only movie makers caught on to her. But to me Chikako is just a a typically helpful member of the VOICE staff. Okay, she is also funny, smart and — very important, silly. So we always have fun together.
It also helps that she speaks English fluently. As we rode in style, I noticed a prominent ad for a beauty cream at the end of the subway car. She translated. This cream, said the ad copy, removes all asymmetries from your face.
Yes, you just put on a little dab here, a little dot there, and that’s all there’s to it.
Examples were given, like having your nose a little too much toward the left side or having one lip be fuller than the other. Put on that simple cream and watch your face sort itself out.
“Do you think it works?” Chikako asked me.
I just roared. Of course, I roared with laughter, being a face reader. A face reader who has spent close to 10 years of her life studying how faces change over time, then collecting photos for Wrinkles Are God’s Makeup: How You Can Find Meaning in Your Evolving Face.
If I were writing from home, I’d add photos, like the ones about how Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall changed in 15 years. Here I don’t have them handy, nor do I have hours to play with computer since a day’s full set of sessions is starting pretty soon. But probably you can find loads of asymmetries easily just by looking in the mirror. Cover up one side of your face at a time, using a blank sheet of paper. Compare left and right.
Some of those asymmetries involve bones! Others are based on the placement of eyeballs. Your nostrils may be shaped differently, too. So that’s some beauty cream, being advertised, right? Still, it pales compared to the wonders of my toothpaste.
TOOTHPASTE OF TEMPTATION
Dollar stores are very popular in Tokyo and Osaka. Of course, technically, they are called “100 yen shoppes.” Or sometimes you’ll find a real bargain hot spot with a name like “99 yen” or even “98 yen.”
Every time I return to Japan, more of these stores can be found. And they’re not like American dollar stores, mostly odd lots of cheap toys, dishware, and tools. These are more like convenience stores, selling everything from orange juice to sandwiches to sewing kits and you-name-its.
At my aura reading workshop on Saturday, during lunch break, I went to a 99-yen shoppe that I remembered from last time. They sell marvellous baked sweet potatoes. I browsed in wonderment at all the products crammed into the store and bought some items I needed.
That included a new tube of toothpaste. When packing, I had brought just one miniature tube. And that was supposed to last for a month? What was I thinking? Even a week was pushing it, squeezing that tiny tube.
So, in my blissfully Nippon-illiterate state, I compared five brands of toothpaste and chose one with a name in English. Not Crest. Not Colgate. But at least something readable: White.
Back home, I’ve been known to use Rembrandt. With all the coffee I drink, I’m at risk for brown teeth. So here I figured, “Hey, why not?”
Fast forward to my subway trip with Chikako-san. I pull out my toothpaste and ask her to translate what it says on the back of the tube. Here’s my paraphrase:
“If you use this toothpaste and experience discomfort or pain, immediately discontinue use. Then go immediately to find a doctor.”
The wacky part is that I still used it, once I got back home. Call it morbid curiosity. How bad could one little smidge of toothpaste be?
Yum, minty taste!
My teeth have never been whiter. The results were absolutely amazing.
Not just that. If I had been listening closely, I probably could have heard enamel on my teeth screaming: “I’m melting…….”
So this toothpaste comes with a free concert.
Okay, “White” is clearly way too effective.
Nevertheless, I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away. Not yet.
In my family, I’m notorious as a tosser. Already, I’ve already thrown away the packet of bobby pins, bought the same day, another of my adventurous purchases at the 99-yen shoppe. (You ladies know how bobby pins always have a plastic tip at each end, so you don’t gouge your scalp or slice through your hair? Not these bobby-babies. They went into my trashcan as fast as you could say, “Ouch.”)
But so far I have been unable to trash my new toothpaste. I’m thinking, “For results this great, maybe I could use it once a year.”