Being Fat in Japan

by Kevin R Burns
(Kanagawa, Japan)

"Many Western residents - as well as anyone from abroad who has a long-time association with Japan - confess to having experienced yo-yoing between a love-hate relationship with the country they have chosen to stay in or remain deeply connected with. Although the extremity of the feeling depends on the individual, Japan is like a sea with a Western surface but hiding a mysterious and to the student - foreign - abyss."

--Yuko Kawanishi, "Mental Health Challenges Facing Contemporary Japanese Society, The `Lonely People`"

Being Fat in Japan

Being fat in Japan: the trials of being overweight in this slim conscious Asian nation.

In Japan, being fat remains noteworthy, something that makes you stand out in a shameful way in a conformist society. Even now, despite government statistics and anecdotal evidence that Japanese people are getting heavier, I can go days without seeing a single fat person in Tokyo.--David Nakamura, the Atlantic

In my wife`s family, her aunts are sometimes told they have gained weight by their brothers and sisters. Some interpret this as a kind of closeness. Japanese are very earthy people, and in some ways this can be nice.

However I wonder how many people feel when they are told that they are fat?

No one ever tells me I`m fat in Canada. My brothers I think have told me I could lose a few pounds which I agree with.

I hate being told I`m fat though, and it happens every month or two in Japan. I am now trying to channel the anger I feel when this happens to spur me on to lose weight.

As I have aged (I am 47 now) I have put on weight and Japanese frequently tell me I am fat. Often it is told in a jokey kind of way but the message is clear: "You are fat."

Being Fat in Japan -- What do Japanese think is okay?

My Japanese wife Ikumi thinks it`s rude to tell someone you are fat, so she would never do it, however a friend of ours said today that it is okay to tell men they are fat, as a kind of joke, but you shouldn`t tell women this. I wonder how Japanese men feel when they are called fat or "jumbo," as in Jason Taisha`s video (link below)?

I don`t think many like it.

Perhaps they are being caring and perhaps they hope I will lose weight. Currently I am 6'2" and about 200 lbs. I know I can lose some weight too,I just don`t like hearing about it on the tennis court, at my children`s sports day, have my stomach pinched by a female nursing student at a party--and let`s be honest here, were I to do the same thing to her, I would be at risk of a sexual harassment charge.

Double standards abound.

Taisha Jason on Being Overweight in Japan

Taisha Jason talks about being overweight in Japan

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