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Japanese get trained in smiles as masks slowly come off

65 Comments
By Anton Bridge and Tom Bateman

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65 Comments
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I asked a university office worker today why all the staff (and students) were still masked. She said it was "safety" and "Japanese culture". What to say to that? What will be the Japanese cultural signal that masking time is over?

-3 ( +34 / -37 )

What the hell is going on here

Wearing a mask just hides your face

We can still smile, laugh, cry, and make faces even with our masks on

Not sure who is dumber, the teacher or the student

Maybe both

11 ( +29 / -18 )

I don't think that is a good characteristic of society if people don't know how to smile.

14 ( +27 / -13 )

Can't get over this

Really unbelievable

Someone needs to shout on their faces to wake them up

-8 ( +12 / -20 )

Robots, we are surrounded by robots.

-3 ( +26 / -29 )

If you need lessons on how to smile, you have some serious underlying problems.

10 ( +34 / -24 )

Japan is a meme.

-8 ( +23 / -31 )

So many people here complaining about nothing. Celebrities practice smiling all the time.

6 ( +23 / -17 )

yes indeed, a fake smile needs practice...

-1 ( +24 / -25 )

That you have to be trained into smiling tells me that what we are receiving is nothing more than an empty gesture of hipocresy, like the smile of a hiena.

1 ( +20 / -19 )

Yesterday I was at a meeting with about 20 people. Three people wore masks. Getting better all of the time. Some people I have only met since the covid started and seeing faces for the first time.

I should start a drop-in smile school in my carport. ¥1,000/15 mins.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

No wonder Keiko Kawano's smiling so much - with hourly-rates like hers, she's probably laughing all the way to the bank.

32 ( +35 / -3 )

¥7,700 an hour.....

Couldn't make this up !!

It's just unbelievable that people need smile lessons and they are willing to 'pay through the teeth' for it as they say.

15 ( +29 / -14 )

People who downvoted my comments are probably those who signed up for this nonsense

-4 ( +10 / -14 )

In other less serious news, student suicide is up, birthrate is down, NK's missiles are proliferating, the war in Ukraine rages on and China plays dodgem ships in the South China Sea.

Now back to the real news, practising smiling.............

4 ( +14 / -10 )

A smile can make any person look so charming

be aware of fake smiles though ;)

9 ( +10 / -1 )

I might need to enroll in this program. Forgot how to smile after hearing our electricity bill is going up.

9 ( +16 / -7 )

Welcome to Japan. People here trained from a young age to think that the only way one can obtain something is by paying money for it. That's also why the English language teaching industry is so huge here. Of course, their English doesn't improve and it's by design.

What is the bet that the people who pay for these ridiculous face training classes come out the same as people who don't take anything What an utter waste of money.

Truly taking the saying, "A fool and his money..." to the next level.

-9 ( +17 / -26 )

I should start a drop-in smile school in my carport. ¥1,000/15 mins.

Where do I sign up? lol

5 ( +6 / -1 )

We can smile if we want to, we don’t have to smile if we don’t want to.

People without masks are gradually increasing but still minority.

Once people without masks becomes 51%, it will accelerate to 90% in no time I guess.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

"It's not something most people would think to pay for but Kawano's services as a smile instructor are seeing a surge in demand in Japan, where mask-wearing was near universal during the pandemic."

Pres tel, what are the necessary qualifications needed to be a "smile instructor"? Only in Japan could you sucker people into paying you to give them "smile instruction". Sheesh.

"Kawano believes that culturally, Japanese people may be less inclined to smile than Westerners because of their sense of security as an island nation and as a unitary state. To hear her tell it, the threat of guns might, ironically, encourage more smiling."

What?? So... another of the "Well, it's because Japan is an island nation," excuses, forgetting that so many of the worlds nations are, like NZ, Singapore, Taiwan, ad nauseam, and not even touching on island states. And "Culturally, a smile signifies that I'm not holding a gun and I'm not a threat to you,"?? Huh??

-1 ( +17 / -18 )

during 'the mask years', I frequently marvelled at how, with a face masked, perhaps with a hat or glasses as well... in other words, minimal visual information.... it was obvious when someone smiled.

a smile is an automatic response, why would it not happen just because masked? if someone's 'forgotten' how to smile, I'd say they've got problems.....

3 ( +9 / -6 )

give people something to smile about and they will smile.

except that, its fake.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

"But while the government may have lifted its recommendation to wear masks in March, many people have still not let them go on a daily basis. "

Sadly, and predictably, very many people were "conditioned", mentally programmed, into believing the safety spiel. And now many of those programmed people cling to their face-safety-blankets. Maybe in a few years they'll be mentally freed.

-13 ( +10 / -23 )

How pathetic is this ?

-1 ( +17 / -18 )

Frankly speaking Japan obsession to keep wear the mask is illogical and anti social.

Always slow in changes compared to the rest of the world,always late.

-11 ( +16 / -27 )

Put your hard earned away, smiles cost zero, nothing, amongst family and friends.

Or just momentary pasting strangers

Your eyes give away your fun and games.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

"Culturally, a smile signifies that I'm not holding a gun and I'm not a threat to you," she said.

Ms. Kawano is not very culturally literate about the "foreigners" as she does not know about the Joker.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Even before the pandemic, donning a mask in Japan was normal for many during hay fever season and around exams due to concern about getting ill for a key life event.

That's enough with this nonsense! I have been living here for 21 years and the mask was never prevalent here among the population. Never! One can argue it was more used (often for ridiculous reasons) in comparison to Western countries, but relative to the total population it was anecdotical. Enough with this fallacy. Never Japanese went into such a bizarre and grotesque behavior with the mask. The COVID circus and the hysteria around it pushed them into a totally new area of ridiculousness. Never so many people were seen wearing this ridiculous mask outside or inside at any time of the year, regardless of the fever season or any other nonsense excuses given by the media to give a pass to this grotesque behavior.

Japanese get trained in smiles as masks slowly come off

Yeah sure keep continuing to be grotesque and awkward.

-16 ( +15 / -31 )

2020 visionToday  05:23 pm JST

So many people here complaining about nothing. Celebrities practice smiling all the time.

Yeah because it's their job to do so instantaneously and convincingly. Actors also practice crying, looking scared, threatening, sad, angry, etc. If your average Japanese has to 'relearn' how to smile just because they wore a mask for two years, it probably means they didn't know how to or were terrible at it in the first place which is painfully antisocial. And let's be honest, wearing a mask doesn't prevent one from smiling in the first place. You realize that you can still smile while wearing a mask. Paying to learn or relearn how to smile is beyond pathetic.

-5 ( +12 / -17 )

Smile's one thing you never run out of even if you share it with everyone

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Put on a good comedy, then there’s some free smiles and richer to boot!

yep masks are coming off, great to see it’s not just me anymore.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

...this is a joke? Right? If they have to "relearn" how to smile because they've been wearing masks for 3 years then goes to show that they probably didn't know how to do it in the first place. That or they've been brainwashed into believing they need to learn how to smile now that masks are coming off. Either way, these people are getting scammed and they're falling for it hook, line, and sinker.

-3 ( +7 / -10 )

If they have to "relearn" how to smile because they've been wearing masks for 3 years then goes to show that they probably didn't know how to do it in the first place.

They have to know it in the first place to relearn it

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

You can't buy smiles, as much as fun or love.

A group springs to mind that sung about the love aspect

Maybe you can, but it is very short lived.

Keiko Kawano believes otherwise for a fee.

Two cocktail sticks can create the illusion of a smile.

That heart felt Julia Roberts smile, wall to wall, doesn't come with a price tag.

To enjoy life, is to smile through life's adversities.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

ianToday  07:45 pm JST

*If they have to "relearn" how to smile because they've been wearing masks for 3 years then goes to show that they probably didn't know how to do it in the first place.*

They have to know it in the first place to relearn it

Someone who doesn't know that ' ' can be used sarcastically and doesn't understand what "they probably didn't know how to do it in the first place" means.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Funny that I came home tonight only to read this article about masks since recently and today too I am beginning to get irritated by people wearing them. it is beginning to get on my nerves. People are wearing them while driving their cars alone, it is SICK.

2 ( +9 / -7 )

Mark, to don a mask alone in a personal registered vehicle, could be forgetful or paranoia.

Time to wonder why?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Someone who doesn't know that ' ' can be used sarcastically and doesn't understand what "they probably didn't know how to do it in the first place" means.

Haha what?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

My niece rides the train every morning to her college in Nagoya from her home in the suburbs. The other day out of curiosity I shot her a text message and asked what percentage of the passengers are still earring masks.

"95%" was her answer. Though she did say that when she visited Tokyo it was much lower. I last went to Japan in September 2022 and they were still being worn everywhere.

I think these things are here to stay for years. That's gonna be a tough number to climb down from, as Japanese people generally do what everybody else is doing. It would probably take a major concerted effort of the government teaming up with TV 'talento' people and local governments and whatnot to break this mask thing.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I’m at the stage where I just couldn’t really muster an emotion on what eccentric behaviors the Japanese have now

-8 ( +6 / -14 )

Perhaps the mask will be like what shirts were to humanity years ago. Perhaps they will be required to enter stores, not for health reasons, but for modesty and to keep the shock away from seeing a bare face that only belongs at a beach or in the comfort of one's own home.

-12 ( +2 / -14 )

Contd:

Much like one cannot enter a store without a shirt or wearing only a bikini around town will likely have a visit with the police...just to see if you're ok.

-14 ( +1 / -15 )

An hour-long one-on-one lesson costs 7,700 yen.

How can you NOT smile when you’re ripping off morons that don’t know how to do normal emotional body functions?

I applaud this woman for taking advantage of the moronic.

And anyone that says otherwise is just lying.

they're just jealous that they didn’t think of this scam first.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Guys, if people WANT to wear masks then let them. It's their right, and it's none of YOUR business. Doesn't matter if they're in a crowded McDonald's with kids whooping and hollering or in their car alone. I agree that the whole, "Well, Japan has traditionally worn masks..." excuse is beyond lame, and I know that many do it to hide their faces and to avoid putting on makeup while running simple errands (I told my friend who told me this just to say screw it and not put on makeup, but she was shocked and thought it impossible). But, again, if some want to wear them, let them. It is not up to you or I to tell them how to live their lives. Period.

I'm still laughing about the "Culturally, smiling shows the other person you don't have a gun" nonsense, like if it were even remotely true every country is the US, when in reality almost none allow firearms to be personally owned (except with extremely strict regulations, when you would never be just walking around with on in your hands).

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

The smiling woman picture in the first photo looks scary. It may be because she has to force her face muscle to create an artificial smile.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

I might need to enroll in this program. Forgot how to smile after hearing our electricity bill is going up

Come on! You cant let trivial things bring you down:) there will always be things that will shock you. Just smile away everything! Watch a funny movie! Play with your cat!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Money can't buy happiness, but can it buy you a better looking smile? Perhaps, depending on who you are talking to. Lol.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Actually, I would not mind taking a class on how to take a good selfie or how to look good on Zoom/Facetime/Youtube. Proper lighting, camera distance, microphone placement, framing, etc.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I've lived in many different places. People in larger cities don't seem to smile as much in public. I suspect subconsciously they think it is a sign of weakness. Whereas in smaller towns and villages, people can be more personable and share a joke to get a smile pretty easily.

What is grotesque is the fact that racist trolls can post such blatant hate speech here.

Hardly racist. Seems observational to me.

Lots of people outside of Japan are still wearing masks. At the local grocery store, I'll see 1-2 with masks for every 20+ people inside. I assume they have some illness and have finally caught up to the Japanese way of thinking - wear a mask when you are sick to protect others, just a little.

I haven't been back to Japan since COVID, but I do remember seeing many more people wearing masks. I'd assumed it was mainly for convenience for women choosing to mask so they could put on less makeup before heading to work. Certainly the number of sick in Japan would be about the same or less than most other free countries these days.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Critics and keyboard warriors might mock at the article but the service for learning presentation skills goes back hundreds of years. In the west it’s called finishing school. Learning proper smiles, hand shakes as well as culture relating to greeting etc can be an invaluable tool that many including westerners here in Japan.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Women smile at me all the times,it do not mean ,I gonna get lucky with it just an jesture of acknowledgement of their presence

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

These people weren’t smiling before wearing the mask if they need training after it. You can see a smile through a mask easily .

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

bet that the people who pay for these ridiculous face training classes come out the same as people who don't take anything What an utter waste of money. Truly taking the saying, "A fool and his money..." to the next level.

I'll raise you even.

But callin it waste of yens? Hard disagree with you there compadre.

Just look at it from the other way around.

Lookin at it from a Looters POV makes way more sense. Reminds me of the nomask makers, round stadiums, suit recruiters uniform… etc etc . All you need is good money comin in, sprinlkle on a little magic or everybody say 'cheese' print out some certificates… and open sesame, your gonna have so many yens to really smile about.

Sorta like K Kawano. Free adspaces, free frontpage news… I betcha she's smilin right now, all the way to the bank. I like to say: One man's cash/tax is just another mans Loot…

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

It shouldn't be about how to smile, since even infants know how to do that.

Instead, it should be about learning to smile.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

On the other hand, infection disease including Covid19 are spreading among general public again, but Government or major media distract their eyes from it.

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Not sure how to feel about this are Japanese people genuinely kinda just dead inside? I went to a hip-hop dance event over the weekend and of the 50+ people in attendance maybe like 5 (including myself) were bopping their heads to the music. The rest were staring like they were in a movie or something. Very weird to see. I mentioned this to one of the dancers later and if course the (it's a Japanese thing) was said

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

"Kawano believes that culturally, Japanese people may be less inclined to smile than Westerners because of their sense of security as an island nation and as a unitary state. To hear her tell it, the threat of guns might, ironically, encourage more smiling."

Another one of those daft theories I often hear trotted out that collapses immediately upon any kind of examination. The British smile more than most Europeans and, last time I checked, we were an island nation and not even our police have guns. And someone really needs to point out to this lady that the Japanese Smile was, until covered up by masks, quite famous around the world.

Here is Lafcadio Hearn ('The Japanese Smile'): "...after having lived for nearly three years in the interior of Japan, I returned to English life for a few days at the open port of Kobé. To hear English once more spoken by Englishmen touched me more than I could have believed possible; but this feeling lasted only for a moment. My object was to make some necessary purchases. Accompanying me was a Japanese friend, to whom all that foreign life was utterly new and wonderful, and who asked me this curious question: “Why is it that the gwaikokujin never smile ? You smile and bow when you speak to them; but they never smile. Why?"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Critics and keyboard warriors might mock at the article but the service for learning presentation skills goes back hundreds of years. In the west it’s called finishing school. Learning proper smiles, hand shakes as well as culture relating to greeting etc can be an invaluable tool that many including westerners here in Japan.

Finishing schools are much more than how-to-smile. They teach poise, which can be far more important than it should be, but it still is, especially for women. Of course, they teach western manners too - which fork to use when - how to set a table for different occasions.

I've taken multiple presentation/public speaking classes in school. They are very different from interview methods or "finishing". It is mostly about being comfortable before crowds and how to present where nobody is reading slides - you or the audience. I tend to use very simple diagrams for my presentations, sometimes without labels, so the audience is forced to listen, but has an image in their mind for concepts. Sharing the presentation document isn't really useful without the speaker. That's by design.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Smile your way through life. A winning strategy guaranteed. People are like mirrors and return the favor almost without even realizing it.

It's an amazing thing to have to pay for lessons, but nothing surprises me here anymore. Things are different!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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