The Increase Of Anorexia In Japan: The Result Of Seriousness Of Chauvinism Society

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Ten percent of Japanese women will get an eating disorder within their lifetime (Pike and Dunne). Eating disorders are becoming one of the most common diseases recently. Particularly in Japan, patients of this disease are rapidly increasing in number. Some people may think that the patients of eating disorders are selfish, vain, or have issues with self-control (Oaten). However, people with perfectionism and low self-esteem are more susceptible to eating disorders (Taniguchi). Thus, patients are not selfish, and the environment around patients causes eating disorders. Eating disorders are also designated as one of the intractable. It is usually caused by emotional pain, conflict, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, stress, or trauma (What causes Eating Disorder?). Eating disorders, especially anorexia, have led to numerous deaths. Even though it is a severe problem, there is a serious shortage of medical staff in Japan, and patients are rushing to the few hospitals and doctors that are able to treat eating disorders. No certain treatment has been found. Even today, a large number of people and their families are unable to receive appropriate treatment, and their symptoms continue to worsen. It also causes symptoms such as thinning of the cardiac muscle mass and resultant weakened cardiac muscle, dyspnea on exertion, arrhythmia and having an attenuated blood pressure response to exercise with exuberant tachycardia at minimal levels of exertion (Mehler). In addition, A lot of anorexia patients develop bulimia (O’Toole).

The purpose of this paper is to let people understand the fear of eating disorders, especially anorexia, and people who suffer from this disease in Japan. Eating disorders are not recognized enough in Japan. However, being understood by people around them is important for patients, and triggers of this disease are everywhere around us, so that the audience is those people who don't know much about this disease in Japan. The increase of anorexia among women in Japan is caused by modern Japanese lookism culture and society, which are consisted of three factors: Japanese media, male chauvinism, and collectivism.

Lookism society in japan

Japan, as a lookism society, contributes to an increase in anorexia in Japan because Japanese women are judged by their body shape. Lookism is defined as the construction of a standard for beauty and attractiveness, and judgments made about people on the basis of how well or poorly, they meet the standard. Recently, the number of people who get cosmetic surgery has been increasing in Japan. According to ISAPS (International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery), 1,678,610 of Japanese people get cosmetic surgery in 2017, and Japan is a country with the third-highest number of cosmetic surgery procedures (ISAPS, 2). In addition, most Japanese women put on makeup when they go out, and if they do not, they are seen as sloppy. Similarly, this lookism trend can be seen in a job interview. In Japan, we have common words called kaosaiyou. It means favoritism based on appearance exists within there. Also, it is common to put a picture on a resume, so it seems that they are particular about appearance when people hire someone. Moreover, in modern Japanese society, there is a tendency that women are not beautiful unless they are thin, and women living in Japan believe that all women should be so; otherwise, they are not attractive. They feel safe and comfortable by becoming the ideal body that everyone wants to be. There is no help but to try to be excessively thin bodies to be attractive. This trend of perfect body image consists of mainly three factors, which are media, male chauvinism, and collectivism.

Japanese Media

Japanese media culture, especially SNS, social networking service, and comic or anime culture, contribute to this trend of Japanese society. The first is the SNS. Recently, the uses of social media such as Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook are rapidly increasing around the world, and the same applies to Japan. According to one of the researches, it shows that social media has associations with the more significant concerns of body image and eating disorders because it causes users dissatisfaction with their bodies (Scott et al., 154). For example, some of Japan's popular YouTubers have channels specializing in diet, and diet videos are one of the most popular videos in Japan, showing how many Japanese women are interested in dieting.

Selfie-taking has become a popular culture trend among Japanese women due to the rise of camera phones and the opportunity to post themselves on SNS. These days, there is an app that makes it easy for anyone to edit a photo. As a result, a lot of glorified over-slim body photos are posted on social networks. Then, when women see them, they compare themselves to them and think they should lose weight even if it is not necessary.

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According to the research done with 342 Japanese students aged from 18 to 20, 41% of underweight students, 88.2% of normal students, and 100% of overweight students seek to lose weight to get the thinner body. One of the reasons for their desire was they compared their bodies with others (Mase et al., 626). Therefore, social media makes women misunderstood in their body image. What is even scarier is that anyone can send out information through social media, so the wrong way of a diet can be spread on SNS. For example, you can fast for a week or go on a diet of only eating salad. In brief, social media, which is a false world by having only good glittering aspects of people, is leading Japanese women to an extreme wish to lose weight, which causes an increase of anorexia patients in Japan.

Another Japanese media, which contributes to an increase in eating disorders, particularly anorexia, is Japanese comics and anime. Comics and anime are some of the popular Japanese cultures, and Japan is proud of this culture; however, it subsidizes the spread of anorexia among Japanese women. The women are often portrayed with an unrealistic body such as ridiculously long legs, huge breasts, and narrow waists. For example, Sailor Moon, which is one of the most popular anime in Japan, is criticized due to the portrayal of body image. Every female character in Sailor Moon is so slim, and they have large breasts and long legs. Nevertheless, they are going on a diet in some of the episodes. Furthermore, this anime has an issue not only visually but verbally. In episode 56, When girls quarrel about who should be the main character in Snow White's production, some people say that since Makoto (Sailor Jupiter) has the largest breasts, she should be the main character, and they even ask other girls to compare their breast sizes (Darrah, 6). In Japan, Sailor Moon is famous among especially kids. Then, children are sensitive and are inspired by older people and inspirational people. And because what they learn as children builds their identity, body images in these animations can have a negative impact on them. Incidentally, in the English language dub, the phrase has been changed to 'the most talented,' and the prompt to compare breast sizes has been omitted. From this, it can be seen that the US and Japan have different views on the appearance and body, and Japan does not take these issues seriously. People can get messages from Japanese anime that they have to lose weight to become beautiful. This Japanese animation culture can plant the wrong body image on women, which can lead to extreme weight loss.

male chauvinism in Japan

Many women try to keep their bodies and fashion, which are tailored to men because of the patriarchal society in Japan. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2018, japan is nominated in 110th country which has gender inequal out of 149 countries (2018). Another fact is that 'seventeen' which is one of the most popular fashion magazines for teenage women reported that the ideal female body size is 4ft 12in and 81.5lb (Baseel). In fact, normal BMI is from 18.5 to 24.9, and BMI of this ideal body is 16.5 is considered underweight and too much thin. (“Finding Out Your”) In addition, the fact that such stereotypes about ideal body shapes are published without any hesitation in a fashion magazine, that is extremely popular among teenagers, shows how concerned women are with men's gaze.

There is still the idea that men are superior in Japan, and many women are controlled by it. Japanese women are expected to be kawaii which is translated as cuteness(aapolloni). Especially for Japanese men, the female with kawaii is women with delicate frame and fragile. Furthermore, people use kawaii to explain the things that are “small” (Asano and Perth,4). In order to attract men in Japanese society where male chauvinism remains, women need to be kawaii such as delicate, frangible, and small. As a result, women try to lose weight to attract men.


Lookism society includes collectivism in Japan. Japan is well known as a country of collectivism. Therefore, Japanese people tend to relieve to be the same as others. In other words, they do not like to be different from others. For example, Most Japanese schools have school designated uniforms, and it is mandatory to wear them, or Japanese people are sensitive to fashion trends, and everyone wears similar clothes, and there is the word 'ryosanngata' which means mass-produced type as a specific term for such people. People of collectivism have a high level of body image dissatisfaction due to a collective society that values conformity in society and being approved in the nation. They tend to prioritize harmonious social relationships with others. Thus, social comparisons through friends and cultural values play a crucial role in a woman's body image (Du,2015). Hence, Japanese people as collectivism tend to place more importance on the opinions and eyes of others or social trends than on their own will.

As I described before, the media has a huge influence on thin-ideal body image, and this collectivism enhances the power of media. According to the research, regarding body image, collectivism is about twice as sensitive to media as individualism (Du,82). In recent Japanese TV programs and magazines, most actresses and models are skinny and praised. Then, the audience living in Japan, which is a collective society, unconsciously normalize their body as an ideal body type when these actress and models are repeatedly shown on the screen. It leads to a sense of fatness and low self-esteem compared to their own bodies. They are conscious of the difference in their ideal body shape, then they feel that they can become beautiful by becoming as thin as actress’ or models body in media and have a desire to be thin. As consequence, they go on a diet even they don’t need to. The Internet and TV are often seen, and their influence is enormous. In addition, one of the motivations of dieting among Japanese, who places importance on the evaluation of people around them, is the desire to be recognized by friends as having lost weight. It is said that for these people, the standard of the desire to lose weight is the people around them. That is to say, it can be understood that the relationship with their friends and the comparison of the body between friends and themselves affect the desire for slimming. Thus, people of collectivism often compare to others, which leads to low self-esteem and have a desire to getting too much thin body. This can result in increasing of anorexia patients in Japan.

Since japan is a lookism country which includes Japanese media, male chauvinism, and collectivism, the patients of anorexia in Japan is increasing. Japanese media can be more grown in the future, and chauvinism and collectivism still exist in Japan. As long as living in Japan, people are always exposed to this recent lookism culture. Hence, everyone living in Japan have a potential to have anorexia by comparing themselves which causes people get low self-esteems. In order to avoid this disease, people need to get along with this modern Japanese society of lookism. Also, people need to understand that people themselves can be trigger of anorexia for someone.

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