An extinction of sorts has taken place in Tokyo's Shibuya district over the last couple of years. The area was once a happy hunting ground for herds of skimpily clad young girls with tans so deep they were known as the ganguro (black-faced) girls. But go to Shibuya today and you'll hardly find any trace of them. They may not have quite disappeared entirely -- but it's striking how the young masses milling there now have become fully several shades lighter.

Perhaps the ganguro merely dropped off the fashion map. Or, just possibly, they cottoned on to the health hazards of sun tanning.

"Until recently, sunlight was considered to be good for your health," says Yoshihisa Sato, the 60-year-old former general manager of Shiseido Co.'s scientific research department. "Children would spend their summer vacations out in the sun getting a very dark tan, and that was regarded as a sign that they were really healthy. But people have now come to realize the dangers."