By  on May 9, 2008

After spending the past two years analyzing the beauty industry, few are as tuned into the nuances of the market as the young executives in the FIT master’s degree program in Cosmetics and Fragrance. So as they embarked on the program’s annual fact-finding trip to Tokyo, we asked the students to record their top “aha” moments. After all, who better to discover the news from the epicenter of what’s next?

1. Standing on Ceremony
Daily activities, such as a simple blow-dry, take on the ceremonial. In a hair salon, a shampoo can last for 20 minutes: The chair reclines into a bed (like a business class airline seat), a blanket is placed on your lap and you’re treated to an incredible massage. There’s even a heated neck rest—and all (including a cut) for about $40.

2. Breath of Fresh Air
“Fragrance gum” is all the rage, designed for guys who are worried about being oyaji-kusai (smelling like a middle-aged man). The gum has the reported power to emit a sweet-smelling odor from the chewer’s sweat glands for up to two hours.

3. Drink Up
Food, drinks and dietary supplements play a big role in health, wellness and beauty. Beauty drinks, such as those containing collagen and Shiseido’s Skin Whitening Beverage, are sold on beauty counters and given out after spa services.

4. Unmasked!

The face mask is undeniably a part of Japanese life. Mask company Unicharm has collaborated with the fashion Web site to create a campaign called Miss Mask, offering tips on matching your mask to different outfits and hairstyles, such as teaming up a velvet party dress with a jewel-studded mask or dabbing on aromatherapeutic oil before a hectic day.

5. The Point of No Return
Retail returns are practically nonexistent out of respect for the effort put forth in service and presentation of every purchase.

6. Functional Cuteness
Cuteness—or kawaii—has always been a phenomenon with fashion and beauty, but it now extends to functional items, like phones, cars and USB drives. Girls use “cuteness” as a way to be genuine and pure, because Japanese culture believes that when you grow older, your true self is hidden under a false person.

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