Telling Them Apart

While in Fukoka and walking around the city with Fuko, she confided in me that many Koreans looked noticeably alike. She could identify a Korean male mostly by his hair style.  This got me thinking about the observable fashion trends and even noticeable genetic traits that Asians share because I too think I can tell most Asians apart. The following are a few trends and traits I noticed while living in Asia.

The Japanese Female

First, as I walked around Japanese cities I found a distinct trend followed by many Japanese women; their cheeks were covered with pink blush. Its so popular among young Japanese women that a male Japanese celebrity donned the style to poke fun at its ubiquitous nature. A quick Google search revealed that this trend which has been going on for several years now is called Igari. Igari makeup is described as Hangover Makeup.

Second, I noticed a dominant genetic trait, bow-legs. When I see it I immediately assume that she is of Japanese heritage. Below is a photo of one woman whose bow-legs I noticed while I waited for the subway train to arrive. I was in Los Angeles in July of 2016 and while dining at the Overland Cafe I noticed a Asian woman whose legs with bow legs like the one pictured below. When her cellphone rang she answered with ‘Mushi-Mushi’ the Japanese equivalent of ‘Hello’ when answering the phone. I knew it!

The Japanese Male

The Japanese man is quite stylish and his fashion choices are numerous, but one that caught my eye is related to his choice of fashion accessory — the over-the-shoulder bag. Impressed with this accessory I gave in and bought one of these bags made by the Japanese company Porter. Over the shoulder bags are quite ubiquitous in japan given their convenience and usefulness. Young and old Japanese men don these bags. Although this fashion trend is also popular in Korea, I tend to assume the guy sporting an over the shoulder bag is Japanese unless I notice that he is donning other clothes characteristic of Korean men’s fashion.


Korean travelers in Europe were lambasted for wearing mostly hiking clothes at such sites as the Coloseum in Rome. K2, The North Face, and Black Yak are popular brands in Korea as hiking is a popular pastime for older Koreans. In particular, if I were to see an Asian wearing a jacket or backpack with the The North Face logo my assumption would be that he or she is Korean.

Personally, within the first year that I lived in Korea I was so envious to see many Koreans donning this gear that I decided to follow the trend. I remember rationalizing that I deserve to wear the North Face because unlike my Korean counterparts I am after all from California, the state where The North Face began.

A Korean couple don The North Face parkas in an advertisement

Makeup Trends

Besides the vast amount of plastic surgery that is undergone by Koreans and visitors to Korea, I will say this about differentiating between Korean women’s faces and Japanese women’s faces. Its quite simple actually. I have noticed that a lot of Korean women’s faces are made to have a glossy sheen. See the image on the left below. Granted the model in the picture looks like she just finished working out. However, the moist face is what I notice on Korean women often. Japanese women tend to have powdered faces. I would use the terms glossy and matte to describe the difference I noticed between Korean and Japanese women’s faces. The terms glossy and matte are not used to describe makeup, but paper, however, I think they are appropriate for my point.

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