After spending years wearing masks during the COVID pandemic, citizens of Japan have been rushing to get professional help to learn how to smile again.
The company Egaoiku, meaning “Smile Education,” has had demand increase more than four-fold for smile instruction over the past year, owner Keiko Kawano told Reuters — noting that her customers have ranged from sales professionals attempting to become more approachable to local government officials.
In one of Keiko Kawano's recent classes, more than a dozen Tokyo art school students held mirrors to their faces, stretching the sides of their mouths upward with their fingers: they were practising how to smile https://t.co/rbPfSM7FlH 1/4 pic.twitter.com/pk4I2HrZgu
— Reuters (@Reuters) June 5, 2023
According to Kawano and some of the business’s customers, the surge in demand is due to the loss in facial muscle memory due to the pandemic restrictions. Virtually every Japanese citizen wore masks for the entire duration of the pandemic hysteria.
Sky News notes that many people in Japan “wouldn’t be seen in public without a mask, with the practice becoming near-universal after the virus emerged more than three years ago.”
“I hadn’t used my facial muscles much during COVID so it’s good exercise,” 20-year-old student Himawari Yoshida told Reuters.
Kawano, a radio host-turned business owner and smile coach, began offering smiling lessons long before the pandemic — stating that the instructions began back in 2017. Since then, she has trained 23 other smile coaches to teach her “Hollywood Style Smiling Technique” — noting that she scores students on their execution.
The one-on-one smile instructions cost 7,700 yen, or roughly $55, per hour, according to Reuters.
COVID was not the first time that Japanese citizens donned masks. According to the Daily Caller, “Mask-wearing was already a staple of Japanese culture before the COVID-19 pandemic, with many citizens wearing them seasonally in public spaces to combat hay fever and the spread of illnesses like influenza. The coronavirus only heightened the prominence of the practice.”
While mask requirements in Japan were finally eased in March of this year, a shocking number of Japanese people are still wearing masks. According to a poll in May from public broadcaster NHK, more than half of Japanese people were still wearing masks just as much as they had under the mask mandates.
Bizarrely, even one-quarter of students in an art class that was taking Kawano’s smiling course were still wearing masks during the lessons, Reuters reported.