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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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