Magazine article Business Asia

Japan Goes under the Knife. (Frontline)

Magazine article Business Asia

Japan Goes under the Knife. (Frontline)

Article excerpt

Kyoko Kitagawa was so worried about her job prospects that she spent 100,000 yen ($1551) on something she thought would give her an edge: cosmetic surgery.

The 22-year-old, who hopes to land a job before graduating from a Tokyo technical school later this year, had a "double-fold" operation to make her eyes look bigger and more rounded. Kitagawa said she might have more surgeries on her face if she can scrape together enough money.

"Appearance seems to matter when looking for work," said Kitagawa, who is studying computer graphics. "I am concerned about my future since the economy doesn't seem to be going anywhere."

As Japan's unemployment rate lingers near a record high, others are taking similar steps to compete. Cosmetic surgeons say that instead of being hurt by a nine-year slide in household spending, they're gaining business because people are seeking ways to win or retain jobs.

"We benefit from this competitive employment situation," said Dr Fumihiko Umezawa, president of Jujin Hospital in Tokyo, one of Japan's oldest and largest cosmetic-surgery practices.

Booming

The number of Japanese getting cosmetic surgery rose about sevenfold over the past 20 years, said Umezawa, president of the Japan Society of Aesthetic Surgery. The growth continued even after the world's second-largest economy slid into its third recession in a decade in November 2000, surgeons said.

Japan had 17,229 cosmetic surgeons in 1999, up 4.9 per cent from two years earlier, according to the latest Government figures.

Helping to fuel the industry's growth is unemployment. The number of people out of work rose 30,000 to 3.61 million in June. New jobseekers may find it difficult to find work in the coming months.

Before last year, Japan's jobless rate hadn't exceeded 4.8 per cent in the almost five decades since records began. …

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