Japanese pay $55 per hour to learn smiling

Some Japanese students are now taking classes from professional instructors to learn how to smile after getting accustomed to wearing masks.

Over three years since the pandemic started, the demand for smile coaching services in the country has surged as more people try to get used to exposing their faces in public after the government relaxed its mask requirements in March.

“I hadn’t used my facial muscles much during COVID so it’s good exercise,” Himawari Yoshida, a 20-year-old art student, told Reuters.

Such gap is where smile instructors like Keiko Kawano come in to bridge in order to ensure that Japanese get back their smile after a protracted period of face-masking.

“People have not been raising their cheeks under a mask or trying to smile much,” Kawano told the New York Times in early May. “Now, they’re at a loss.”

Students like Yoshida attend smile lessons hosted by Kawano as part of their school’s efforts to prepare students for the working world.

Kawano, a former radio host, runs a company called “Egaoiku,” which translates to “Smile Company,” per Reuters.

She started out teaching smiling at a gym before she transitioned into coaching employees from corporate clients, including IBM Japan, the New York Times reported.

A private, hour-long lesson with her costs 7,700 Japanese yen, or $55, per Reuters.

“A typical smile lesson starts with checking your current smile,” Kawano told Insider. Next, Kawano will show her students the shape of a smile that she calls the “Hollywood smile,” and have them try to mimic it.

“However, I know that the facial muscles do not move as expected,” Kawano said. “We will do exercises to shorten and stretch the muscles of the cheeks and create a beautiful mouth shape.”

For those who want to be a smiling coach like her, Kawano also offers one-day training workshops for 80,000 Japanese yen, per the New York Times.

She told NYT that while her business was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, she still had the occasional client. Her business, however, boomed after the mandatory mask mandates were lifted.


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