The follicle fetish isn't new. Samurai films from 40 years ago show that eyebrows as bristly as caterpillars once perched on Japanese male foreheads. Shiseido, a Tokyo-based cosmetics firm, created an eyebrow kit for men in 1996. The company says sales have grown steadily since. Japanese men's cosmetic line Gatsby had double-digit domestic sales last year.
In Japan, "beauty has never been polarized as a feminine attribute," says Mark McLelland, a sociology professor at the University of Queensland. Last month, a high school student was banned from a judo competition north of Tokyo. Tournament officials were put off by his heavily tweezed face, which they said was "too intimidating." Butch is in the eye of the beholder.