Am I fat in Japan? : A Foreigner’s Response to Weight in Japan


Japan and the United States share the overall conception that being thin is a desirable and attractive trait. But that is where the similarities seem to end. When the bar is set higher on the “thin scale” in Japan, how do foreigners living in Japan react?

Louise George Itakka, a foreigner curious about the weight sentiments of other female foreigners sets out to survey the female foreign population. The results of the survey are not surprising.  Half of the 583 participants reported that their confidence regarding their appearance plummeted since arriving in Japan. 21% reported that life in Japan has improved their body image. 85% responded that the Japanese media promotes that skinny body image as a healthy. Often on Japanese television programs and game shows, overweight individuals are brutally ridiculed.

More than 80 percent of survey participants voiced their frustration about one-size clothing in Japan. The narrow range in size option, also creates difficulties for those who were small in their native countries. In Japan, the clothing may be too big for them.

Many foreign women express their sadness, and frustration in Japanese body image culture, specifically that in Japan, making comments about weight is not taboo. If you are overweight or have gained weight, people will tell you, or makes jokes/comments. Foreign women were especially discontented by this cultural difference because it deepened their already present insecurities about their weight in a country that praises being thin.

A woman from the United States commented that when she return to the U.S she notices how big the children are, especially the teenagers. But no one tells them that they are overweight or that they should try healthy options to alleviate their bodily condition. It’s hard to find balance.

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