What does it mean to be “Ugly” In Japan

Japanese Reading Difficulty

9/12 Could be read by 9th grade level student in Japan

Themes

Beauty, depression, cosmetic surgery.

Text Type

Social Media Posts (Twitter & Youtube)

What does it mean to be “busu” 「ブス」or “minikui” in Japan?

In a world that worships at the altar of kawaii 「可愛い」, at saucer sized eyes and at double skinned eyelids. What is it like to feel like you don’t live up? And how can you live a life so that it doesn’t overwhelm you.

Twitter writer and Youtuber “Todoron” painfully, graphically and courageously lays bear her experiences of this situation for all to see on Twitter, and later Youtube. Her first tweet was a single Hiragana character. Her third tweet got 150,000 likes and 30,000 retweets. 

She seems to having something that resonates with contemporary online Japanese society. She mixes simple-truth observations of the state of the world, and her own inner state. Topics she tackles include her history of cosmetic surgery, concepts of beauty and mental health.

Today I want to have a look at the language she uses around the issues.

 

A translation of Todoron's first tweets

Through repeated rounds of cosmetic surgery, you can turn yourself into something that you believe to be beautiful. But turning yourself into something the world believes is beautiful remains impossible to do forever. Beauty is talent. It all depends on whether you are able to bring this beauty out, or you choose to deny it. Even people who show the world that they have achieved beauty through effort are only keeping an appointment with their own natural born talent.

Feelings that only ugly people can understand

・ The fear of the group photo

・ The fear of catching your own image reflecting back at you from panes of glass throughout the city

・ The fear that Snow will not be enough to make you beautiful

・ The feeling of guilt at being attracted to a hot guy

・ The philosophical regret of “Why did I have to be born as myself when I could have just as easily been born as someone like Nozomi Sasaki”

 

I love girly things like frills and lace. It makes me sad that I am so scared of people denying the femininity of the “me covered in those things” that I act like I don’t even like them in the first place.

People always seem to think that people who go public with their cosmetic surgery say to themselves “Cosmetic surgery is making an effort! Please acknowledge how much work I’ve put in! Tell me I’m beautiful” out of some kind of need for acknowledgment of self or urgent need for recognition. But really, I think that the vast majority of people are actually saying to themselves “If I try and hide the fact I’ve had some work done, people will still talk, so I may as well just be open about it. People can choose not to accept what I’ve done if they like, no one is forcing them to stick around if they don’t want to”.

A translation of Todoron's first Youtube clip

こんな醜い感情で生きていてもいいですか

Is it good enough to live life with these kind of ugly feelings?

はじめましてとどろんと申します。初投稿です。

Pleased to meet you, I’m dodoron this is my first video.

本日は東京新潟間を背景に整形経験者である私の話をして行こうと思います。

Today, with the scenery between Tokyo and Niigata as my background, I’m going to talk about myself and my experiences as someone who has had cosmetic surgery.

整形経験者

Person who has had cosmetic surgery  

東京駅から発射します。楽しみです。

Launching out from Tokyo. This is going to be fun.

自分語りになりますがこうして外に出られるようになったのは整形してからです。

I fear I will be talking all about myself, but going out like this is only something I have been able to do since having surgery.

ブスは外に出るのも許されない。

Ugly people aren’t allowed in public.

日々顔を非難される経験を積めばそういう思考になります。

If you have experience of having your face criticized on a daily basis over a long period of time, that’s how you come to think.

恐怖。

Fear.

評価。

Criticism.

新潟に出発です。電車や新幹線の音っていいですね。

Leaving Niigata. Don’t you love the sound of the train and the shinkansen?

ガラスがなければ自分の顔を見なくていいし最高なのになあ。

If only there was no glass here to reflect my face everything would be perfect.

朝食を食べ損ねた弁当を買いました。

I missed breakfast, so I’ve bought a bento.

余談ですが美人て財布を出すふりが上手いですよね。

To digress a moment, beautiful people are great at making like they are pulling out their wallet aren’t they?

やっぱりおごられなれているのでしょうか。

I suppose it’s because they are so used to having others pay the bill.

ていうか今気がついたけど服のシワやばいですね。

Never mind that, I’ve just realised the wrinkles in my shirt are next level.

こういうところがブスなんですよね。ごめんなさい。

I guess this is one of the hallmarks of being ugly. I apologize.

美人は服がシワシワでもだらしない美人なのにブスは「そんなんだからブスなんだよ」と言われるの理不尽だよね。

If a beautiful person wears wrinkled clothes they are just a beautiful person in wrinkled clothes. But if an ugly person wears wrinkled clothing, people say “that’s the reason you’re so unattractive”. It makes no sense.

いただきます。おいしそう。

Bon appetite. Looks good.

さて再出発です。雪だー!綺麗!

And, we’re off again. Look at the snow. It’s beautiful!

整形前はきれいなものを見ても素直に口に出せませんでした。

Before having cosmetic surgery, I was unable to speak freely about beautiful things.

ブスがはしゃいでると思われるのが恥ずかしかったからです。

I felt that people would just think that I was an ugly person shooting her mouth off.

ブスって捻くれてる人が多いと思うんですがそういった複雑な感情も影響していると思います。

Ugly people are often a little twisted I think that it must be the result of experiencing such complex emotions.

よし帰りましょ。

Well, time to head for home.

新潟でも撮ろうと思ったのですが無理だったのでお土産を紹介します。

I wasn’t able to shoot in Niigata, as I’d hoped, so I’ll just show you my souvenirs.

のどぐろ茶漬け

Nodo Guro cyatuke

 

嫉妬

Jealousy

 

これは自分用。夜食に食べたら死ぬほど美味しい絶対

This is for me. This would be the bomb to have as a late night snack.

 

可愛い女の子がおっさん臭いもの好きをアピールするのがウザいと思うのは私だけでしょうか。ギャップがいいとか言うけどだいたいだれでも好きだわ。

Am I the only one that gets annoyed at beautiful people trying to make a big thing out of how they love eating the sort of snacks a middle aged man might like. People say “it’s such a lovely contrast”, but let’s face it, who doesn’t like that stuff?

そしてこちらは家族へのお土産

I got these for my family

笹団子です

Bamboo shoot balls

 

ブスだけど見た目可愛いものは好き

I may be ugly, but I like cute stuff.

 

そしてジャスミンティー

And, jazmine tea

 

なんか凹んでるんだけど

Looks a bit dinted but

パンを食べる、うめぇ

Time for a pastry. Man, that’s good.

おいしいという感覚は美醜に関わらず平等に与えられた最高の快楽ですね。

Deliciousness is the greatest sense that people of beauty or ugliness have received equally.

ごちそうさまでした。

That was good.

帰りは雨で景色がよく見えませんでした。

I couldn’t see the scenery on the way back because of the rain.

今日の動画はここで終わりです。初投稿いかがでしたか。

I’ll finish up my video here. How did you like my first post?

ぜひご意見ありましたらコメント欄までお願いいたします。

If you have any thoughts please let me know in the comments.

では、ありがとうございました。

Thank you very much.

さようなら

Goodbye.

 
Graded Japanese Reading Practice
peterjosephhead@gmail.com

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Who is behind this site?

I’m Peter Joseph Head. I lived in Japan for four years as a student at Kyoto City University of the Arts and on working holiday. I have toured the country six times playing music and speak Japanese (JLPT N1).

ピータージョセフヘッドです。3年間京都市立芸大の大学院として、一年間ワーキングホリデーとして日本に住み、6回日本で音楽ツアーをし、日本語能力試験で1級を取得しました。要するに日本好きです。

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