My husband and I just came back from our second trip to Tokyo, where we spent New Year’s in the middle of visiting both of our families for the holidays. Having gained some level of familiarity with Japanese cosmetics brands since our first visit last year, and having restrained my cosmetic purchases fairly well over the past year, I basically went in feeling ready to buy some stuff. The added bonus was learning about and having my first experience with fukubukuro, or “lucky bags” of products that lots of Japanese retailers put out for New Year’s sales.
Just for reference, I did my best to record the prices I paid, both in yen and approximate US dollar conversion. In one case where I bought a bunch of stuff at once, I can’t actually read my receipt and note when I’m working from memory.
And to clarify about those lucky bags, lots of brands and retailers put together surprise bags of products available for a set price specifically for New Year’s. Sometimes it’s a Black Friday doorbuster sort of situation with people lining up outside of a store hours before it opens, and other times it’s a little more relaxed, but they generally seemed to run out within a day or two of being released. You don’t get to choose the individual products you end up with, but the biggest draw is that the contents are generally worth a lot more than what you paid for the bag, so you’re getting a great value. I love a good surprise and was game to walk around and browse, though less willing to get up early and stand in line. I have a couple of beauty brand lucky bags to include here, but I also may write up a post specifically on them later on.
RMK is a brand that a friend personally recommended to me, and she’d said that their foundation was incredible. A quick browse of their products revealed that they have a number of different foundation options and I hadn’t asked which one she liked, but her recommendation definitely made me pay attention. From reading a few online reviews I’d narrowed my choice down to either the Creamy Foundation or the Gel Creamy Foundation, and then playing with them in person led me to choose the Gel Creamy.
RMK gel creamy foundation in 201(¥5,000, $43), Ingenious Powder Cheeks blush in 08 (¥3,000, $26), Face Pop Creamy Cheeks blush in 03 (¥3,200, $27)
Then, as I dipped my fingers into some of the other product displays, I realized that I probably need to bring a little bit more of the brand home with me. I loved every blush I touched but managed to narrow them down to just one selection. I picked out the Ingenious Powder Cheeks blush in 08, which is a light peach with beautiful, refined sparkle. The blush line featured several different finishes, and I found some with glowing sheen, some with this delicate sparkle, and others were matte. Glitter is not so popular in Western cosmetics outside of eye makeup but tons of Japanese brands embrace it, and I thought this one looked like an elegant way to wear it.
At the end of my visit I was also drawn in by the new spring collection display, which featured lots of fresh, lively pinks, and I decided to buy shade 03 from their limited edition line of four Face Pop Creamy Cheek blushes. These shades are designed to give a dewy luminosity to the skin.
Naturaglacé complexion set (¥2,376, $21) and Eye Color Parfait (¥3,888, $34)
I’d never heard of Naturaglacé before, but I ended up grabbing this when I snuck into a Cosme Kitchen while killing time waiting for a friend outside the Daikanyama train station. Cosme Kitchen sells a lot of natural cosmetic products, including recognizable American and European brands like Giovanni, Andalou Naturals, and Weleda. Naturaglacé sat adjacent to Jane Iredale and RMS products, and I got a good impression of the eyeshadows in particular from the testers. Since I’d never heard anything about the brand before, I hesitated over their complexion makeup but decided to take a shot on this little set that includes 3 foundation shade samples, a little BB cream, and a loose powder.
Cosme Decorté lucky bag (¥7,000, $60) – 4-piece winter makeup coffret, skincare mini bottles and samples, and cosmetic bag
This is another brand I hadn’t heard of and had just stumbled into a store that sold lucky bags for 2 or 3 different brands. This one from Cosme Decorté came with both makeup and skincare in it.
The sales associate sort of showed me some of what was included in this bag, so the contents weren’t a complete surprise. I definitely prefer a surprise, but I think she may have done that because it qualified as a tax-free purchase for non-residents and she needed to seal up some of it in a plastic tax-free bag for customs.
That being said, it turned out that when I went in and opened the bag all up, there was actually more in there than I realized. I have yet to try the stuff, but I think this bag was really cool.
Majolica Majorca Lash Esthetician and Lash Expander Long Long Long mascaras (around ¥1,500 each, or $13)
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Majolica Majorca mascaras but I ended up not buying any on my first trip to Japan because, really, they’re nearly twice as expensive as the drugstore mascaras I typically buy (on sale) in the US. But this time I grabbed not one, but two.
Visée Innocent Veil Powder (¥1,836, $16), Cezanne Airy Curl mascara (¥626, $5)
A couple more drugstore things here. I bought a super affordable mascara by Cezanne just to give that a try, and then this Innocent Veil powder by Visée, which is part of their current 2016 Winter Doll collection. The tin is really cute without taking up much space and it comes with a little puff inside. I think this is a highlighting powder that provides a soft light, gentle glow, and possibly a hint of refined sparkle.
Etude House Dear My Blooming Lips-Talk in strawberry-hued pk029 (¥580, $5), Apricot Stick in coral-hued 120R203 (¥500, $4.30), Oh My Eye Lash curling mascara (¥1,296, $11), Charcoal Chin Pack (¥50, $0.43), heart sponges (¥350, $3)
I ended up venturing into Etude House and having a little fun once I realized that the products were significantly cheaper in Tokyo than they had been in Taiwan and Singapore, where I’d previously (they’re a Korean brand, but I have yet to visit and purchase Korean products in their home country). So that’s a great thing to know. I bought two lip colors that were marked as new products, the Dear My Blooming Lips-Talk and Apricot Stick, and a mascara. I also landed on two small impulse buys while waiting in a long checkout line, which were these darling heart-shaped sponges and a chin mask strip (My guess is that it’s like a Bioré strip). The heart sponges look like they’re designed to split into two little wedges, and are so darn cute.
Oh, and they gave me some a really sizable pink pouch (not pictured) as a freebie, which was a neat surprise. It’s definitely little fancier than the typical small sample product or two that the cashier might throw into your bag.
Chant a Charm moisturizing milk and cream, Makanai Cosmetic body cream, Dr. Ci:Labo skincare set, and 2 free sample sets (approximate prices noted below)
One of the places I had good success in during my first visit to Tokyo was Tokyu Hands, which is a large hobby/home improvement/lifestyle kind of department store. They have a great section devoted to beauty and personal care, and I like spending time there because they have a lot of what I’d consider to be mid-range brands. So, much of their stock feels more affordable than the fancier department stores for me. All of the brands I purchased from are completely new to me, and all of these products are made in Japan. I picked up a facial lotion and cream from Chant A Charm (both were in the $22-26 range), a body lotion from Makanai (I think this was around $12), a little mini skincare set from Dr. Ci:Labo (around $15), and then the cashier gave me two little freebie sample sets from Pettusais Premium and Nesno. Chant a Charm and Makanai are both categorized as natural brands, while Dr. Ci:Labo seems to be marketed as more of a medical type of brand.
Lash comb, 2 blotting papers, Heroine Make mascara
Additionally from Tokyu Hands I also picked up a little lash comb, a couple packs of blotting paper, and a mascara from Heroine Make, which is a brand I’ve seen in drugstores. I can’t tell which version of mascara it is, as there’s no English text, but I got the one that has the 2014 @Cosme #1 icon on it (@Cosme gives out beauty awards sort of like Allure does here in the US). These beauty tools were all super inexpensive, and the mascara was maybe $13-ish.
I also bought a couple packs of black, ridged cotton buds (not pictured). For some reason, black cotton buds are a very popular Japanese personal care item and my husband and I just thought they were fun and worth a try.
Shu Uemura lash curlers (¥1,620, $14)
I love to linger around Shu Uemura counters, but at this point I’m able to just admit to myself that their products are just generally too expensive for me. However, I went ahead and finally bought their lash curlers because those are surprisingly affordable in Japan, especially compared to the rest of the brand’s pricing. Maybe the Japanese market just can’t support a lash curler being priced over $15 because consumers have a number of high quality options at reasonable prices? I don’t know, it’s just a guess. I say that because it seems you can pick up other reputable ones from brands like Shiseido at basically any old drugstore for similarly low prices.
Bioderma lucky bag (¥3,000, $26)
This was actually the first lucky bag that I purchased. I wasn’t out looking for it, it just came across it while browsing and loved the idea of getting some Bioderma products for under $30. I’ve never tried Bioderma before, and I was so pleased with this. I got a big bottle of the Soothing Moisturizing Toning Lotion and a little bottle of the Makeup-Removing Micellar Solution, both from the Sensibio line for sensitive skin, and this Photoderm Spot SPF 50+ cream which says it has a preventive anti-mark effect for damaged and scarred skin.
If you couldn’t tell just by seeing a lot of the Japanese brands in this post with French-sounding names, I think the Japanese market (and frankly, a fair amount of Asia) really digs French stuff. Consequently there are a number of French brands that are more available there than in the US, Bioderma among them. I’ve seen both Bioderma storefronts as well as larger department stores that stock their products around Tokyo.
Jill Stuart lip color set (¥6,500, $56)
This was my final cosmetic purchase that I actually got in one of the duty-free shops at Narita airport – I don’t think I’ve bought any cosmetics in an airport before! So, this is a 3-color Lip Blossom set from Jill Stuart. The shop offered two different sets with different colors and I think all 6 shades may currently be exclusive to the sets, but the rest of the line is full of great colors. My shades are 05 Amaryllis Poetry, 18 Elegant Peony, and 112 Dahlia Garland. These are creamy, vibrant but somewhat sheer, and come in these flipping adorable tubes with tiny mirrors built into the lids. They’re on the pricy side (for me, anyway) but were a total treat.
Beaver lucky bag (¥15,000, $129), Bonjour Records lucky bag (¥5,000, $44)
I won’t break this one down here – maybe in a separate post – but I did take a chance with a clothing lucky bag from a store called Beaver in Shibuya and a clothing/accessories type of bag from Bonjour Records in Daikanyama. Beaver seems kind of like a Japanese take on a casual Pacific Northwest-ish aesthetic, with some fun colors and patterns that still looks very “Japan” to me. Bonjour Records has some fun clothing, coffee, and music. Both bags were fun, and I got some playful/useful stuff out of them. The Beaver bag came with a backpack, jacket, shirt, and pants, while the Bonjour bag included a tote bag, sweatshirt, hat, and notebook. The pants from Beaver are the only thing that definitely do not fit, so overall I was very pleased!
Bee Keep Soap (¥1,620, $14) and other personal care
A few personal care products: The soap came from a honey vendor and it just caught my eye. I also bought a couple of single-use heating pads, one pack for the eyes and another for the back of the neck. A friend who’d spent a few years in Tokyo raved about the heated eye pads, so I had to try those out. I’ll say more about those if they turn out to be what I’d consider must-buy products from Japan.
I hope you had a great New Year, and wish you the best in 2017! Did you take advantage of any sales, or have you tried any of these products before?