Why is it so easy to spot Japanese women in Seoul?

This is a regular topic of conversation between me and my wife. The easiest thing to spot is usually the particular colour of hair dye, as dying your hair is far less common in Korea and the shades are almost always different (although Thais and Chinese tourists sometimes have the same colour as the Japanese). I’m convinced the surest sign is a shuffling gait, but obviously my wife isn’t too fond of that explanation! (See another post for possible reasons why Japanese women walk that way)

Other possible explanations, but please note that the Japanese on holiday in Korea are just a small subset of Japanese and rarely include Shibuya panda girls (on the beach in Kamakura beach instead) or Ebi-kei (in Europe or planning to go):

  • Clothes- especially woolly hats, Ugg boots and other “cute” and decidedly unglamorous stuff- Sex and the City seems to have had a lot more impact in Korea┬áthan in Japan.
  • Shoes- Less likely to be wearing high heels, and walk in a particularly Japanese way in them too
  • Smiling and laughing a lot, especially if they cover their mouths with their hands
  • A lot less spontaneous in conversation, even with who you imagine are their friends if they are on holiday with them. This is particularly true with groups of middle aged or mixed aged Japanese women in a Korean cafe, where you can spot the older dominant one much quicker than with Korean groups
  • Different attitudes to eye contact with strangers, though can’t exactly define it
  • Much more likely to carrying brand carrier bags, especially one that they’ve kept to use as an extra handbag
  • Much more open neutral expressions

You can also look at it the other way round, of course, and we did spot one group of obvious Korean girls when we were back in Tokyo. Telltale (though by no means universal) signs include:

  • Very low straight fringes (not sure why, but Koreans are even more obsessed than Japanese with having a “small face”, so could be that)
  • Bushier eyebrows
  • More bodily contact, e.g. touching the arm of the person you are talking to
  • Girls holding each other’s arms or even hands as they walk along
  • Style a bit like Japanese bubble years body-con, e.g. skirts with very high waistbands
  • More likely to have had plastic surgery to get a “high” nose