There is a "cuteness factor" in Japanese culture that can't be missed: from Hello Kitty to the miniature beauty of Bansai trees, cuteness is valued. Nothing dramatizes this more than how some Japanese middle-aged women and moms adopt a "cute" look as they age.
Women in America, in contrast, hold onto their youth by trying to retain a "sexy" image. They wear clothing that emphasizes curves, in what appears to be an overt attempt to compete with younger women. American women have access to plastic surgeons as well, with the explicit aim of looking as sexy and attractive as a 23-year old.
While issues like prostitution, pornography and "hostess girls" are real problems in Japan, both Japanese teenagers and adult Japanese women in their dress and overall attitude have a far less "sexualized" manner than American women.
And while Japanese women feel no less pressure (and perhaps even more) than American women to "remain young," Japanese women return, in appearance, to an almost early adolescent look.
It's not uncommon to see a late-thirtysomething Mom in Japan wearing barretts, colorful trendy sneakers, short girl-like hair, a pink cell phone and jeans with the cuffs rolled up. And if you ask a Japanese women why this is, they might tell you they don't have the curves and physique of western women, so "cute" is all they've got.