Weight is a sensitive issue. Both obesity and anorexia are on the increase in many countries across the world, and Japan is no exception.

I was distraught the other day – I realised I couldn’t quite fit in to my favourite pair of shorts any more, boo! Therefore, I’ve decided to eat less junk and exercise more, and I’ll be back in my shorts before too long. Sorted. But what if you’re after a quicker fix?

(ad from Happie Nuts magazine, March 2009)

Flipping through any Japanese fashion magazine will inevitably end with the reader being bombarded by weight loss adverts towards the back. Offering fast solutions for those wishing to lose weight, they have a touch of the bargain basement about them! Generally, they advertise diet pills that restrict the amount of food that can be absorbed by the body, making you um, excrete more often. Ahem. How glamourous! These aren’t just in women’s magazines, mixed in with the virility ads in men’s magazines are diet ones too.

I looked up the BMI (weight/height ratio) of the girls pictured above, and I was genuinely shocked to see that they were so thin that they were off the bottom of the charts. This is a pretty interesting study (also check out the related ones) that shows that while the average height of Japanese women has been increasing, the average BMI has been decreasing.

(ad from Egg’s Beauty magazine, summer 2010 – Kanako (left) has come under fire for her rapidly decreasing weight)

It would be far too easy to blame the media for all the world’s current ills, but I don’t think it’s necessary here to point fingers. Sometimes, it really feels like you can do no right – heavier than average and you’re marginalised, lighter than average and you’re ‘not a real woman’ (that phrase is my pet hate! ARGH!). This is felt by Japanese women as much as Western.

As I tourist in Japan although I’m slim, I do feel larger than I probably am – being considered tall even in England doesn’t help! Many foreign tourists in Japan have a hard time finding clothes to fit as the average sizes run much smaller, and there are even some horror stories about female tourists being referred to men’s clothing shops. Don’t let it bother you for a second! Japanese mainstream shops often come under no obligation to cater to a wide range of sizes, thus alienating what would be quite a large client base. I think as long as you’re mentally prepared not to fit in to the tiniest pair of sho-pan (hot pants), and you totally work with your body instead of against, then the Japanese fashion world can be your proverbial oyster.


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