The Battle Against Unsightly Tans

Those cute little skirts on the handlebars of this lady’s bike aren’t the equivalent of doilies on armchairs – they’re to keep the sun off the rider’s hands while she bombs down the sidewalks of Tokyo. Even as fall slides into winter here, and long sleeves replace short ones, women are ever-vigilant against becoming <shudder> TAN.

In May, when cosmetic companies in the rest of the world start gearing up to offer bronzing gels, spray-on Malibu Barbie and sunscreens with extra tint, in Japan the billboards for skin whiteners appear. There’s a gigantic category of products that claim to make you even whiter than you already are, and every department store features a section devoted to long white gloves, deeply visored hats and little ascots to cover up the space between your t-shirt and chin, lest a stray sunbeam provoke a hideous freckle.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

The #1 hostboy at Club Nova makes a handsome living, whispering sweet nothings in the ears of women who pay him a fortune for the privilege. But the party’s over when Tokyo Detective Kenji Nakamura is assigned to investigate the death of…read more