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Japan the Beautiful

Japan the Beautiful

1950s Cosmetic Surgery and the Expressive Asian Body

(p.260) 12 Japan the Beautiful
The Affect of Difference
Kim Brandt
University of Hawai'i Press

The years immediately after World War II witnessed a rising fascination in Japan with the possibilities for personal and social transformation afforded by civilian applications of wartime technologies. Elective cosmetic surgery, which adapted the methods of reconstructive plastic surgery developed in response to battlefield injuries, became enormously popular during the 1950s. Drawing upon the extensive discussions of new beauty practices in the popular press, news weeklies, and influential women’s magazines, this essay situates the 1950s “boom” in cosmetic surgery within a longer history of concern about the Japanese body in the context of a racialized international order. By seeking to remedy the inscrutability, apathy, and stupidity or even barbarity associated most notably with single-lidded eyes and “flat” faces, doctors and patients contributed to shaping and prolonging an older imperial formation that continues to exert a powerful influence to this day.

Keywords:   postwar Japan, plastic surgery, beauty culture, double eyelids, individualism, rhinoplasty, blepharoplasty, layered imperialism, anthropometry, women's magazines

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