Four 20-year-old girls yell “kakkoi” (cool) at the top of their lungs at a store in Tokyo selling rhinestones, crystals and shimmering hearts. Many Japanese are seriously into glitz and pizzazz. They personalize their cell phones, laptops, handbags, headbands, shoes and microphones — anything.
But cell phones in particular.
“We do it to express ourselves,” says one of the girls. “I love making things prettier by putting rhinestones on my cell phone. I’m going to put some on my camera next.”
There’s even glam for babies, for sparkling up baby shoes, pacifiers, rattles, skirts and even tutus.
You can buy rhinestones and fake gems and do the decorating yourself, or can have a store like Guramu custom decorate your cell phones and other items from as little as $10 to as much as a few thousand dollars.
Tetsuo Watanabe, a spokesman for Guramu, told Majirox News that Guramu has 10 stores throughout Japan with a combined income of $7.8 million annually. They started as a craft school in 2003. They expanded into shops that are usually located in high-traffic pedestrian areas.
“The stores are popular because having a decorated cell phone is a way of showing your individuality,” he said. “It helps you stand out from the crowd.”
Guramu uses Swarovski crystal. “It’s the best, most radiant sparkle that you can get — other than diamonds, emeralds, rubies and sapphires,” Watanabe said. “Swarovski” is now increasingly less the name of a maker of cut glass gem stones than a generic term in Japanese applied to all types of cut glass stones.
A designer of fine jewelry, Hiroo Shimizu, says at Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo there is a small booth run by two young women who custom decorate cell phones. They do it with all sorts of rhinestones and Swarovski cut glass.
“They are very professional and skillful,” he says. “In a sense they are redefining what it means to be a jeweler…..”