There are some interesting features about the Japanese people that I’ve observed over the years. Their built-in humility: try to give a Japanese person a compliment and they’ll start energetically denying it. The often-crooked teeth of females, which are considered a kawaii “charm point” so most don’t fix them. Japanese are sure that every Westerner is tall, and often apologize to me for having a cramped and tiny car or home even though I’m only 5’9″ (175 cm), hardly a giant. They’re also positive that everyone of European descent has flowing blonde hair (and large breasts, if female), and often “see” these features even if they’re not there. Also as a rule, Japanese look younger than foreigners. Let’s explore why this might be!
For a variety of genetic, environmental, diet and social reasons, Japanese look young compared to foreigners, especially Westerners, usually seeming to appear 5-8 years younger than their European counterparts in most cases. It can be hard to tell why this is. Some of is the way smaller, thinner Asian bodies are perceived by Western brains as being younger, and some of it might a matter of effort, like the 45 minutes my wife spend obsessing over her skin each day, scrubbing and cleaning. I’m sure that Masako Mizutani, a 51-year-old model celebrated as the Japan’s Lady of Eternal Youth, puts a lot of effort into maintaining her appearance.
Some other thoughts on why Japanese look younger then foreigners…
- Before I got married, I dated this 23-year-old nurse. She looked significantly younger than that, to my American mind. Almost to the point of making me nervous.
- Sometimes the “mental age” of Japanese can be lower than in the West. I had a student doing homestay in Oregon, who thought it perfectly normal to go outside wearing full-body bunny pajamas complete with ears to walk to a restaurant. I wouldn’t be surprised if anyone seeing her walking in such an innocent and child-like way assumed she was younger than her actual age of 18.
- A 24 year old female J-List employee visiting San Diego—who admittedly had to shop at Gap Kids to find clothes that would fit her—was told in one shop that she couldn’t buy with a credit card because “her mommy needed to be with her.” Happily she proved her age by showing her ID and all was well.
- My wife would get carded at bars well into her mid-40s when in the U.S., which made her giggle with delight.
- The general rule seems to be, Asian women don’t age perceptibly until they hit menopause, then bam! They turn into ajumma, the Korean word for a middle-aged woman with a tightly-curled hair, which is a thing in Japan, too. A few years later, they turn into shrunken Takahashi Rumiko grandmothers. I’ll let you know how all this unfolds over the years.
So, why do the Japanese look younger than foreigners? Got any ideas? Discuss it with us on Twitter!
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