Japanese hiring smile-specialists to learn how to smile again

20-05-2023 09:19 AM

Ammon News - After three years of concealing their faces behind masks due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a growing number of Japanese individuals are seeking the expertise of smile tutors to help them readjust to a mask-free life and regain their confidence in displaying genuine smiles. With the official advice to wear masks lifted, many people have admitted to struggling with the transition and feeling awkward without the face coverings. Some even confess that they have forgotten how to smile naturally, according to a report by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

Keiko Kawano, a coach with the smile education company Egaoiku, highlighted the impact of prolonged mask-wearing on people's ability to smile. "With mask wearing having become the norm, people have had fewer opportunities to smile, and more and more people have developed a complex about it," she explained to the Asahi Shimbun. "Moving and relaxing the facial muscles is the key to making a good smile. I want people to spend time consciously smiling for their physical and mental wellbeing."

To address this issue, Egaoiku offers smile training sessions where participants utilize handheld mirrors to assess their progress. Under the guidance of smile coaches, individuals adjust their expressions until they feel satisfied that they have rediscovered their natural, pre-mask smiles.

The demand for smile training has surged since media reports announced the easing of mask-wearing recommendations. Egaoiku witnessed a 4.5-fold increase in the number of applicants. In February, as the reclassification of Covid-19 approached, the government declared face coverings as an individual choice. In May, they downgraded the severity classification of the virus. These developments have further prompted people to seek assistance in reconnecting with their smiles.

Typically popular among women, the smile training classes commence with facial stretches to relieve tension. Then, participants hold handheld mirrors at eye level and follow Kawano's instructions to flex various facial muscles. Kawano emphasizes the importance of conveying a genuine smile to reach one's audience. "A smile is only a smile if it's conveyed," she reminds her students during a recent session in Yokohama, as reported by the Japan Times. "Even if you're thinking about smiling or that you're happy, if you have no expression, it won't reach your audience."

Kawano, a well-known figure on TV and social media, has coached over 4,000 individuals in the art of smiling over the past six years. Additionally, she has helped hundreds become certified smile specialists. Presently, she oversees 20 trainers who conduct smile training classes throughout Japan.

According to an online survey by Laibo, a research group specializing in careers, 27.8 per cent of employees aged 20 to 50 stated they would continue wearing masks unconditionally, while just over two-thirds said they would decide whether to wear masks based on the situation. Only 5.5 per cent expressed their willingness to go mask-free at all times.

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