I'd never really thought about bra shopping in Japan before, but recently two of my favourite bras lost a battle with the washing dryer, and now I have to buy new ones. So, yesterday I trotted down to Shinsaibashi to check out the lingerie stores.
From what popular culture shows us, Japanese society has an obsession with boobs. Big ones. The idealised anime/manga-fied Japanese woman looks something like this:
The result of all this hyper-sexualisation is reflected in the lingerie stores. I couldn't find a single bra that didn't have excessive padding, push-upness, squeeze-together-ness, gel-inserts, intimidating wiring, or claim to have some sort of revolutionary gravity-defying technology. Seriously, there was probably more support contained within those stores than there is for the Japanese government.
And then there were the adornments. We know that Japanese women like to decorate things - cell phones, notebooks, pets - and naturally this extends to innerwear. It's like a secret party is going on beneath your shirt. Blinged, bejewelled, studded and sparkly bras were a regular feature, as was lace, frills, mesh, ribbon, bows, and little dangly charms. I saw one bra that was like a turban for your boobs, it had so much extra fabric. You are hard pressed to find a simple white, nude or black bra. Instead, typical colours include lime green, yellow, magenta, and metallic gold. Or you can forget about colour schemes and just go for character themes. Hello Kitty, Snoopy and Superman are apparently the most popular characters to be brandished across your chest.
What I find amusing is the series of contradictions in the Japanese bra shopping experience. Like, you might have a bra designed to anchor your breasts up to your chin, but it will have a Sesame Street character printed on it. You might walk into a bra shop that is a pastel pink, frilly, girly fairyland, but Kanye West will be blaring on the speakers. Signs within the shops can't seem to decide if they want to promote conservatism or promiscuity. So they mix both. 'Sexy Innocent Girl', 'Pure Bedtime Lady', and 'Milk Mama Casual Butterfly' were my favourite combinations.
Unfortunately, not a single bra was bought that day. I'll let you know when I cave and decide to buy the twin Hello Kitty heads...