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Move over big brands, Japanese makeup sees indie boom

Startups flourish as manufacturers like Nippon Shikizai open up opportunities across Asia

Customers try out a new line of makeup at a store in Tokyo's Shibuya. (Photo by Maho Obata)

TOKYO -- On a recent weekend here, a downtown drugstore was jammed with foreign and local customers shopping for mascara, lotion and other beauty products. Among the labels were not only such big brands as Shiseido and Kose, but also small, obscure names.

These upstarts have flourished thanks to a wave of demand among consumers who, not content with mass-market cosmetics, seek products made for their individual needs. Many of these companies outsource production, creating a niche for contract makeup manufacturers -- a market that has grown 40% over the past four years.

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