Black Hair 1

In Japan we have a saying that roughly translates to “A woman’s hair is her life.” While that may sound quite dated in this time and age when Japanese women wear their hair in any and all conceivable styles, it looks like the current trend in the Japanese fashion and beauty industry is good old-fashioned, natural black hair. But you may be wondering, Japanese people have naturally black hair, right? So, how can something naturally occurring become a “trend”?

Yes, Japanese people have black hair, but the fact is an enormous number of woman dye their hair or get highlights. If you come to Japan expecting to see everyone with jet-black hair, you may be surprised, since you’re bound to see a good number of people with non-black hair, especially if you’re in a crowded city. (Granted, the color is usually a shade of brown, at least most of the time, and not the outrageous pinks or blues you often see in Japanese animé.)

However, according to a recent article on the Niconico News site, black hair now seems to be increasingly popular in the Japanese fashion and beauty industry, so much so that the trend may be impacting business at beauty salons.

As the article mentions, it has become exceedingly common for Japanese women’s magazines to run features on “black hair”, or kurokami, as it’s referred to in Japanese. Celebrities gracing the cover of fashion magazines also seem to be increasingly black-haired, such as popular actresses Yuko Takeuchi and Satomi Ishihara or 2006 Miss Universe runner-up Kurara Chibana, to name a few.

▼Yuko Takeuchi Black Hair Yuko Takeuchi 3photo: Amazon JP

▼Kurara Chibana Black Hair Kurara Chibanaphoto: Amazon JP

And we can’t forget Mitsu Dan, the sexy model/actress who seems to be on many Japanese men’s minds these days. In fact, Dan’s long black hair is one of her trademarks, as suggested by the title of her official blog, “The Black-Haired Shirabyoshi“. (Shirabyoshi were historical female dancers in the imperial court prominent around 800 years ago.) Indeed, it seems there is no shortage of Japanese actresses, models, idols and even newscasters with black hair who have been in the spotlight recently.

▼Mitsu Dan Black Hair Mitsu Danphoto: AMAZON JP

Interestingly, this trend favoring black hair is not just a fad that popped up suddenly. The article notes how in the latter half of the 2000s, Japanese cosmetics and beauty manufacturers started to come out with different shampoos like Asience, Tsubaki and Ichikami focusing on the beauty of Asian hair. There’s no denying that women featured in the commercials for these shampoos had breathtakingly beautiful black hair, so it’s little wonder if such products really did start a gradual, long-term trend toward black hair.

However, this has apparently been unwelcome news for beauty salons across Japan. An owner of a salon in Aoyama, Tokyo, is quoted in the article as saying, “There are definitely fewer customers getting their hair dyed. This is something that has been happening over a long period of time, but it seems to have become even more noticeable after the big East Japan earthquake in 2011. Frankly, hair dyeing is the biggest profit earner for beauty salons, more than hair cuts or perms, so I have to say it’s a blow to us. But personally, I like women with black hair, so I’m in a bit of dilemma as to how I should be feeling feel about the situation.”

Whatever the reason, data collected and analyzed by Japanese industry and marketing research company Fuji Keizai indicates that the beauty salon market has indeed been shrinking in recent years after reaching a peak in 2006. There are likely multiple causes for this decline, including the long-term recession in Japan, increasingly stiff price competition within the beauty salon industry and a general decrease in the Japanese population, but the analysis by Fuji Keizai also suggested that the dip in hair dyeing sales was a significant contributing factor to the industry’s downturn.

The Niconico News article goes on to share with readers the comments of beauty journalist Yoko Kisara, who sees the black hair trend having come about as a result of Japanese people generally becoming more conscious of hair care. Kisara says that while black hair has been receiving more media exposure of late, a large number of women, especially those who are younger, still get their hair dyed. However, at the same time, Japanese women now seem to be increasingly interested in taking good care of their hair and scalp, and it would be understandable if the ideal image of naturally beautiful “virgin” black hair held strong appeal for these women. On the more practical side, Kisara adds, the recession may be forcing women to spend less on hair treatments or to color their own hair with store-bought products, although she says this may be less of a factor.

In any case, the drop in sales now has Japanese salons scrambling to attract customers by offering new services such as manicures and hand care or even services targeting male customers. This is not surprising, though, since businesses all across Japan, and not just in the beauty industry, have had to deal with the tightening of consumers’ purses in past years.

As for myself, I’ve never really thought about changing my hair color … well, at least not until I’m forced to start thinking about dyeing it black for a different reason all together (because unfortunately, white does stand out against black, but I’m still holding out … for now)!

Source: Niconico News
Top Image: ACQUA omotesando via kamimado

A few more black-haired beauties for your viewing pleasure:
Black Hair 4photo: GARDEN Tokyo via kamimado

Black Hair 2photo: AFLOAT Xel-Ha via kamimado

Black Hair 3photo: BiZUu HAIR via kamimado