Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Incredible Disappearing Japanese Figure

Compared to Japanese women, Western women are fatter and mouthier. We all know this.  Whenever I would hear a female expat lament, “These Japanese girls, they’re way too skinny,” I chalked it up to a severe case of the jellys and an inability to shut up and hit the gym in lieu of their daily Japanese bakery fix. Then I came across a few things that made me rethink my position. First, article in the Washington Post:

Big in Japan? Fat chance for nation’s young women, obsessed with being skinny

Next, this chart from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare:

Japanese Obesity Chart

1) 1987, 2) 1997, 3) 2007
Red – obese, blue – underweight

It seems my fellow expats have a point. I myself was not particularly concerned with or attracted to women who aspire to the Auschwitz look so I must have ignored the unusual amount of skeletors running about. But once I became aware, I couldn’t stop seeing them everywhere.

The cliff notes for y’all who don’t like assigned reading:

  • Japanese women under the age of 60 are skinny even by their own stricter standard (BMI of 18.5 or less), and trending skinnier.
  • Imagine a person standing 5’2″ (157 cm) weighing in at a scant 101 lbs (46 kg) or less. As of 2007, more than a quarter of Japanese women in their 20’s are of these proportions.
  • Being skinny is extremely important for Japanese women and they exert enormous social pressure on each other to be so.
  • There’s not much evidence of serious eating disorders, just a warped sense of what “overweight” is, an increase in smoking, and restricted calorie intake

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If You Meet the Buddha, Give Him Some Tissues: Modern Koans

Public transportation you can set your watch to. Blazingly fast fiber optic Internet. A culture that fosters hard work and attention to detail. Toilet seats that warm your cheeks and wash your anus. Androgyny advanced to a level where you might believe that the populace has evolved past petty sexual differentiation. Neon everywhere. To many visitors, Tokyo seems like a city of the future. Looking out over the city from one of its many skyscrapers on a rainy night, one can’t help but think of Blade Runner made real.

Spend a few years living in this marvel of human engineering, however, and you’ll start noticing some disturbing inconsistencies. Transactions are still recorded in paper and ink and notarized with a stamp. Internet Explorer 6 and fax machines are standard issue for many businesses. Spill boiling hot oil on your hand on a Friday night during a drunken cooking accident? Sorry bud, hospitals are closed on the weekends. Where was that attention to detail when you came across your umpteenth “No Smorking” sign? It’s enough to make you wonder if that African fellow in sunglasses and a trench coat slipped a red pill into your gin and tonic last week at Ageha. Continue reading