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Japanese Aesthetic Salons (or esute salons) are popular establishments in Japan where men and women go to receive a great variety of mostly non-surgical beauty treatments, including hair removal, slimming treatments, and facial care. The beauty industry in Japan is extremely widespread and lucrative, grossing an approximated $4 billion dollars per year with estimated 173,412 establishments nationwide in 2003.
Among the leading Aesthetic Salons in Japan are the Tokyo Beauty Center with 417 shops and average annual sales of ¥41.7 billion ($398 million), Socie with 74 shops and average annual sales of ¥21.5 billion ($205 million), Takano Yuri Beauty Clinic with 120 shops and average annual sales of ¥16 billion ($152 million), and Slim Beauty House with 102 shops and average annual sales of ¥10.2 billion ($97 million). Not all aesthetic salons target women as their customers; the Men's Tokyo Beauty Center and other such thriving salons target male consumers. All of these salons are only one part of a multi-billion dollar beauty and cosmetics industry in Japan.
While there are in each culture many different ideas about what beauty is, some prominent ideals in Japanese culture include hairlessness, slimness, and having full breasts. In Japan, there are very specific, quantifiable standards for male and female beauty. Currently Japanese salons and other forms of Japanese media promote the idea that every minute part of the body should conform to extremely specific proportions. In fact, even pornography propagates these ideas; in the adult movie review magazine, Apple Tsushin, regularly featured a uniformed "doctor" measures every possible part of a naked actress' body, including her vaginal depth. The photos are accompanied by charts. The beauty industry also segments customers' bodies and targets specific areas as the focus of beauty treatments. Often beauty salons will chart their customer's progress on a "medical" sheet. The Yakano Yuri Beauty Clinic monitors calves, thighs, waist, and bust separately and supplies the exact quantitative change of before and after treatments. Aesthetic salons employ a huge variety of beauty treatments for their costumers.
For many years, Japanese have utilized many different forms of hair removal treatments. While the cosmetics industry provides every possible cream, glaze, wax, bleach, razor, etc., aesthetic salons also capitalize on Japanese women's desire to eliminate body hair. Aesthetic salons offer a variety of these treatments, seeking to eliminate almost all body hair possible using any number of methods. The proprietors of aesthetic salons often assert that shaving will result in thicker, darker coarser body hair. Two forms of electrolysis are among the most popular forms of hair removal, as well as what is known as "threading," a technique by which hair is plucked out using a folded string.
Slimming treatments at Japanese aesthetic salons include cellophane body wraps, massages, use of different creams and lotions and of a variety of mechanical devises said to disintegrate or melt fat away from one's body. One popular technology-based treatment involves what is called "Electrical Muscle Stimulation" (EMS), where the muscles of the body are stimulated via electrical nodes hooked up to a microcurrent-emitting machine.
During the 1970s, often young, childish, innocent looking women were more eroticized and there was much less emphasis on breasts are a primary marker of sexual attraction. As the culture has moved away from the "cute" aesthetic, the beauty industry in Japan has instead created a symbolic link between large, womanly chests and a sense of independence, self-assertion, and confidence. While aesthetic technicians do not perform beast augmentation surgeries, they provide other services that are meant to increase the size of the breast, even out the sizes of the breasts or create different proportions of the chest area. One example is the "Bust-up" treatment plans offered at many different aesthetic salons. The treatment typically includes massage, stimulation with suction cups attached to electrical equipment, and the use of various creams.
While aesthetic salons are extremely popular and lucrative, they often toe the line between legitimate businesses and unregulated, fraud-ridden operations. Part of the difficulty with government regulation is that 40% of these salons are less than five years old, with old shops closing down quickly and new establishments being opened constantly. In the year 2002, the Mainichi Daily News Interactive ran a story about some malpractice in Japanese aesthetic salons, including an account of a hospitalization due to a botched electrolysis treatment and a lawsuit against a salon owner who was violating the Medical Practitioners' Act by telling his staff members that anyone (regardless of lack of training) could operate laser equipment. The report also cited an arrest of an unlicensed owner running a bogus shop out of the back of a restaurant, claiming to be able to utilize comic forces to remove their moles, and also the swindling of customers by another salon that advertised one price for hair removal and charged a woman much more money because they claimed her hair was thicker and coarser and required extra attention. In response to all of these and other incidents, the Japanese government began to research ways to create a system of review for aestheticians and a way to regulate and improve salon workers' training.
- Miller. Laura.  (2006). Beauty Up - CL: Exploring Contemporary Japanese Body Aesthetics. University of California Press. ISBN 0520245091
- Tokyo Beauty Center. "." Tokyo Beauty Center. Retrieved on 2009-04-20.
- Socie. "." Socie. Retrieved on 2009-04-20.
- Takano Yuri Beauty Clinic. "." Takano Yuri Beauty Clinic. Retrieved on 2009-04-20.
- Slim Beauty House. "." Slim Beauty House. Retrieved on 2009-04-20.