MIT Visualizing Cultures

Selling Shiseido – Lesson 03

Cosmetics as History
By Karen Johnson & Patty Koller

What is the definition of a beautiful Japanese girl or woman? Does the ideal of beauty change over time? If so, do the changes reflect changes in culture or are they driven by how advertisers want people to think of beauty?

In this lesson, students will explore historical changes in the definition of beauty in Japan. The lesson draws on advertising done by the Shiseido Company of Japan from 1877 to 1960, and looks at changes in the advertising of products over time. The focus of the lesson is not the products themselves, but the evolution of the advertising as it pertains to, or reflects, the changing image of women in Japan. One very important aspect of this change occurred in marketing and packaging during World War II.

Students will use Visualizing Cultures to make an evolutionary study of images of Japanese women. They will study various art styles prevalent in Japan from 1877 to 1960, then analyze the different types of women that emerged during the Meiji period and the role advertising had in their creation. The students will then use this information to create their own advertisement for Shiseido cosmetics.

Additional background for teachers is provided in the Teacher Background Notes.

Grade Level and Courses
Secondary social studies, history, art history, women’s studies, marketing

Time Required
Three to five class periods

Materials and Preparation
Prior to beginning the lesson, teachers should read the Teacher Background Notes and examine the recommended images.

If possible, gather some cosmetics from Shiseido and corresponding products from a U.S. company, such as Maybelline or Cover Girl.

Handout 03-A, Vocabulary List
Handout 03-B, Three Styles of Art in the Early-20th Century
Handout 03-C, Analyzing Visuals: The Five Cs
Handout 03-D, Five Types of Japanese Women

Download or bookmark the examples of the three art styles and the Selling Shiseido III Image Galleries so you can easily show them to students using an LCD projector.

Art Nouveau:
Gazette du Bon Ton
Makeup Beauty Techniques Sheets
Art Deco:
Shiseido Poster
Shiseido Poster
Shiseido Pamphlet

Arrange for the necessary technology to allow students to view the Selling Shiseido II Visual Narratives in small groups.

At the conclusion of this activity, students will be better able to:

1. Describe how Shiseido’s advertising and marketing of cosmetics to Japanese women changed over time.

2. Explain how this evolution reflected changing societal expectations and opportunities for women.

3. Analyze images and categorize them by time period based on certain characteristics.

4. Recognize popular art styles of this period.

1. Show cosmetic products from the Shiseido line and corresponding examples from a U.S. company such as Maybelline or Cover Girl. Begin the discussion by asking whether students recognize the Japanese company and/or its products. Highlight the products with which they are familiar. Ask such questions as:

• What are these products used for?
• Who uses “beauty products”?
• How important is advertising in selling these products?
• Do cosmetic companies aim their advertising at different groups of people? How do they do this?
• Explain that, in this lesson, students will be examining the evolving definition of beauty in Japan by examining advertisements from Shiseido.

2. Distribute Handout 03-A, which lists key vocabulary for the lesson. Review the handout with students.

3. Next, distribute Handout 03-B, explaining that it provides more background on three art styles. Read and discuss the information with the class.

4. Pass out Handout 03-C, which presents a framework for analyzing visuals. Lead students in using the Five C’s framework to analyze the examples of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Bauhaus styles listed in the Teacher Background Notes and the list at the end of the lesson. Do not proceed with the lesson until the students understand the art styles employed in this lesson.

5. Go to the Selling Shiseido III Image Galleries. In small groups or pairs, have students find examples of the various styles of art among the images. Ask students to explain their reasoning for the categorization of the images.

6. Distribute Handout 03-D, which describe six different types of Japanese women. Review these types with the students. Discuss how Shiseido might appeal to each of these types of women.

7. Use the Selling Shiseido II Visual Narratives to help students analyze how Shiseido’s advertising promoted products to the different types of women. Review the various time periods in which Shiseido marketed their products and how society’s demands and expectations of women changed over those years. When the students can demonstrate an understanding of the art styles, the types of women, and the time periods, assign the assessment activity.

8. To conclude and assess the lesson, have students create Shiseido print ads reflecting what they learned in this lesson. The medium can either be electronic (a Website or PowerPoint presentation) or paper (a poster board or brochure). In the ad, the student should identify one of the five types of new Japanese women as the target market, select a time period, and employ one of the art styles covered in the lesson to promote a Shiseido product. The product, art style, and time period must be correct for full credit.

As part of the assignment, teachers may also assign students a one-page paper explaining their ad. Students should prove through this assignment their understanding of the different types of Japanese women, the various time periods, and the art from that time period as well as the needs and wants of women and Japanese society from those time periods.

Ehrlich, Doreen, The Bauhaus (Leicester, Great Britain: Magna Books, 1991).
Johnson, Paul, Art: A New History (New York: HarperCollins, 2003).
Hillier, Bevis, Art Deco (London: Studio Vista/Dutton Pictureback, 1968).

© 2009 University of Colorado Program for Teaching East Asia. Lesson developed as part of participation in the National Endowment for the Humanities 2009 Workshop, “Visualizing Japan in Modern World History.” Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this lesson do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Materials may be reproduced for classroom use; materials may not be duplicated or reproduced for any other purpose without written permission of the Program for Teaching East Asia.

© 2009 Program for Teaching East Asia

Massachusetts Institute of Technology © 2010 Visualizing Cultures