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Japan Sees Surge in “Smiling Classes” As Citizens Shed Masks Post-Pandemic [Video]



In a Nutshell:

  • After years of wearing masks due to the pandemic, many Japanese people are taking smiling classes to regain their natural facial expressions.
  • Keiko Kawano, a smiling class instructor, has seen demand for her services soar as people begin to abandon their masks.
  • Smiling classes have been a part of Japanese culture for decades, but they’ve seen a resurgence in popularity after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

Mask-wearing during the pandemic years has had an unexpected impact in Japan.

Many Japanese people have found that the once natural action of smiling has become unfamiliar and awkward after three years of facial coverings.

Consequently, there has been an increased demand for “smiling classes,” where individuals can relearn how to express their happiness naturally and comfortably.

Keiko Kawano, a radio personality-turned-entrepreneur, has been teaching these smile classes since 2017.

In her classes, participants learn to flex and stretch various parts of their faces and neck muscles to recreate the authentic smile they once had.

“A smile is only a smile if it’s conveyed,” she said to The Japan Times.


Kawano’s smiling classes have trained roughly 4,000 people and 700 certified “smile specialists.”

However, as pandemic restrictions have lifted and people have begun to abandon their masks, demand for these classes has soared.

Smile trainer Miho Kitano remarked that some of her clients have confessed feeling hesitant to expose the bottom half of their faces, admitting that they’ve forgotten how to smile.

Others have noticed more wrinkles around their eyes, suggesting that their facial muscles have been underused.

Classes involve stretching, observing one’s reflection in handheld mirrors, and following a trainer’s instructions to flex facial muscles to express a warm and bright smile.

Kitano states that smiling is similar to any other muscular exercise – it involves consistent training and practice.

While the concept of smiling classes may seem novel, they have actually been part of Japanese culture for several decades due to cultural challenges in expressing emotions facially.


However, the lifting of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions has once again increased their popularity.


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