Japanese bling breaks with tradition

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A new generation of young Japanese is ignoring the traditional aesthetic of muted colors and subtle designs for fashion and decoration, instead preferring the sparkle and shine of "dekoden."

A combination of the words "decoration" and "denwa" - the Japanese term for mobile phone - young people have taken to personalizing everyday items, such as phones, watches, cigarette cases, mobile music systems and their make-up products.

Each is painstakingly adorned with colorful beads, artificial jewels, stickers and images of characters from animated movies.

"It is nice to have something that is unique and that I made myself," said Kanako Hosomura, a 27-year-old waitress from Tokyo.

"It can take a long time to get the design just right, but it's creative and I also find it quite relaxing," she said, displaying her decorated mobile phone and compact mirror case.

The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland cavorts across the front of her mobile phone, along with dozens of other beads and flowers, while Marie, the kitten from Disney's The Aristocats, shares space on her mirror with a bee and a blue heart.

"Each one took me about two hours to complete, but I think it's worth it," she said.

For people without the time - or the artistic ability - to decorate their own items, stores in Japan have started providing a bespoke service to make your phone stand out in the crowd.

Electric appliance store Yamada Denki has set up a Mobile Dream Theatre at its Ikebukuro outlet where customers can purchase small bags of decorative beads, sequins and flowers for as little as Y300 (€2.33), while more elaborate additions can cost as much as Y1,000 (€7.78).

To have a phone decorated by one of the store's professionals takes about two hours and costs Y3,000 (€23.34).

Store officials say that stick-on heart symbols and initials are popular, while other people like to attach fake cakes and confectionery.

The craze is becoming so mainstream that the National Museum of Modern Art opened an exhibition on the theme of decoration in the summer, while the current display, titled, The Power of Decoration: A Viewpoint on Contemporary Studio Crafts, is scheduled to run until the end of January.