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February 2010
 
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February 22nd, 2009
Sun, Feb. 22nd, 2009 12:00 am

This is perhaps the most important blog entry you will read all year. With today's entry, things really come to a head. No, it's not about fictitious capital and its role in the current financial meltdown. It's bigger than that. It's about Aoi Yu's hairline.



Aoi Yu -- and I might as well admit she's my favourite celebrity right now -- has an irregular hairline. I consider it a "beauty point", and today I want to investigate the Japanese terminology for hairline shapes. In English, of course, we have terms like "widow's peak" -- Stephin Merritt made me sing about one in the poignant As You Turn To Go.

I turned, of course, to Hisae to ask what Aoi Yu's beautifully broken hairline might be called, and the first word she came up with was fujibitai: Fuji forehead (from Fuji and hitai, forehead).

I was immediately delighted, imagining that the hairline was being compared with the irregular, ever-changing snowline around the summit of Mount Fuji. So poetic! But it turned out that fujibitai, although it does refer to Mount Fuji, is more about finding an upside-down picture of the volcano in the kind of hairstyle I'd describe as a "Dracula peak" -- the kind seen in these pictures, the first of which shows Hara Setsuko, a favourite actress of Ozu:



Geishas are supposed to have a fujibitai, and a wig is often worn to provide the pointy peak. When you get married in traditional Japanese style you're also supposed to wear a fujibitai wig, and there are web pages that tell you exactly how far the peak should ride above your eyebrows.



But we were barking up the wrong volcano. Aoi Yu's hair is not peaked but downy, and the word in Japanese for that is ubuge. The best place to see her ubuge hair in motion is the series Osen, where Yu plays the quirky manageress of a slow food restaurant, wearing traditional clothes and pinned hairstyles all the way through.

Watching Osen, I found myself as fascinated by Yu's hair as the plot. I was tempted to freeze the frame and make a diagram of the three distinct types of hairline Yu has. See if you can spot them in this photo:



The three zones I see there:

1. Widely-spaced normal head hair, set quite far back on the skull, creating that distinctive bulge on Yu's forehead.

2. A downy zone of baby hair, again adding a babyish quality. Technically, I think this is called lanugo hair, and forms part of the pelage.

3. Stray strands of 1, hanging down loose over the forehead, but widely-spaced enough to leave, around them, some of the baby lanugo visible. These strands add a lot of charm, and might be more visible at the end of the day, when a formal, flat hairstyle is starting to come undone, or when the wind is blowing.

Here are some people with bun-pinned, downy hair who aren't Aoi Yu (the one on the right is a friend, Berlin-based musician Midori Hirano):



There are some photos of Aoi Yu in which this beauty point -- her downy or ubuge hair -- falls just on the wrong side of the line, and she looks a bit gappy or even receding:



But 90% of the time her dynamic and irregular hairline is an imperfection that improves on perfection, the kind of quirky and humanising "beauty point" that sets Aoi Yu apart from thousands of other beautiful women and makes her completely irresistible. Who cares if the whole banking system falls into the sea, as long as there are still women in the world with hairlines as beautiful as the snowline on Mount Fuji?

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