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Japanese Lighted Mirror: A Look at Cultural Misinterpretation and Misrepresentation

The "Actress Mirror," made by Train Corporation in Japan, has been recently introduced to the US market and sold in the Paul Smith retail. It is a compact mirror with 8 built-in LED lights, powered by a 12V battery housed inside the hinge of the mirror's clamshell. With that information, fashion tech DIYers like you probably can figure out how to make one yourself by procuring 8 LEDs rated around 1.5V and wiring them to a 12V power source (1.5V x 8 = 12V). But this post is not about making a lighted mirror. What I'm wondering is this:

Lighted makeup mirrors aren't new. Products such as Zadro's lighted compact or Conair's desktop mirror with 4 lighting simulations (eveing/day/home/office) are not difficult to find. You can also find many more funky, fashionable ones in the gift, novelty, and craft categories. Exhibit one, two, three, four, five, and six.

Why did the Paul Smith retail team decide to carry this particular product? And why now? Looking at the Actress Mirror official site, it seems to be QVC caliber of a product. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but no one can deny that Paul Smith and QVC operate on different intellectual planes. Don't believe it? Witness another glorious Train Corporation product—CALORIE OFF sliming socks. The packaging screams "FAT BUSTER!!" "Let's Diet!" (by not actually dieting but wearing magical socks) and promises burning 399 kilocalories every d*** hour. Only if the Wall Street Journal could've learned about it and save themselves the trouble of writing that front-page story on cankle...

So how do we explain this Japanese-QVC-in-Paul-Smith anomaly? I believe it is yet another case of naive misinterpretation or, worse, willful misrepresentation of foreign cultures by certain self-appointed cross-border cultural agents. On the one hand, people who chronically misinterprete other cultures look at them through rose-colored lenses. Unfamiliarity makes their hearts grow fonder; everything in that light becomes fresh, exceptional, and desirable. Those who misrepresent foreign cultures, on the other hand, thrives on the naïveté of aforementioned exotica chasers and the curiosity of general public. They exploit other cultures to validate their own viewpoints or simply are out to make a buck.

Since there are always people who see grass greener on the other side (e.g., men who love "exotic" beauties *cough governor Sanford cough* and women who love the British accent guy), of course there are merchants ready to capitalize on it. Some years ago I read a research report surveying pricing of imported perfumes in several countries. Regardless of country of origin or location of sale, it found that foreign brands constantly commanded higher prices and the differences could not be justified by import tax and shipping costs. Apparently they enjoyed higher price points due to the consumer's heightened perception of foreign fragrances. Regrettably I can't locate that report any more and may recall some details wrong, therefore please take it with a grain of salt. The first person who can point me to the source, win a bottle of Nancy Kwan's (ancient oriental secret) Pearl Cream!

(Images: Train Corporation, WSJ via Gawker; video: Pearl Cream)