Everyone In Japan Is Thin And Beautiful (And So Can You!)

Raise your hand if you think it’s ridiculous that we even have the concept of “The Freshman Fifteen“. Ok, now if you’re raising your hand, you should probably put it down because there’s no reason to sit at your computer and raise your hand.

Plus, I found it difficult to keep typing with one hand in the air.

It is ridiculous, though. The fact that so many of us go to college and end up gaining a bunch of unnecessary weight is just sad. However, it happens to way too many people. Our society is so based around a sugar-heavy, carb-heavy diet and a sedentary lifestyle that it’s become commonplace to get fat after high school.

But what if we could fix this problem? What if there was a way to fix it that didn’t involve going on some rigid, radical diet or a overly complicated exercise program?

Well, that fix exists, and I only had to travel 8,000 miles to find out what it is.

Live Like You’re Japanese.

About two hours into my trip to Japan, the biggest things I noticed were the people. Well, actually not the biggest, because they’re not big. Almost nobody in Japan is overweight in the slightest.

As I continued through my journey, this fact kept become more and more noticeable. Of course, I’d always heard that people were healthier in Asian countries, but you really don’t appreciate that fact until you actually see it. Everyone is healthy. It’s crazy.

In fact, it’s not just that they’re skinny – they’re also beautiful. I’ll be honest, it was pretty hard to keep my eyes off the girls there. I’m not just talking about the ones my age; even women who were probably in their 40’s looked absolutely great. People there seem to defy aging until they reach their elderly years. Telling whether someone is in their 20’s or 40’s usually comes down to looking at their face, because you often can’t tell from anything else.

So I set about researching exactly why Japanese people are so much healthier and thinner than we are. As it turns out, they aren’t spending hours in gyms, plodding away on treadmills and stationary bikes, and they definitely aren’t doing Weight Watchers and tracking points.

No, the health of the Japanese people cannot be attributed to any adherence to a program or special diet. It’s a lifestyle thing. 

The way they live, day to day, simply keeps them healthy. It’s engrained in their habits and society, meaning it’s something they barely think about.

That got me to thinking – what if we could adopt a similar lifestyle? What if we could build lasting habits that didn’t require conscious thought, or confidence-killing struggles between our goals and our desire for certain kinds of food?

This post is about building that kind of lifestyle. First I’m going to lay out just how our habits differ from Japanese habits, and then I’m going to show you how you can adopt these Japanese habits I experienced in order to live a better life. Since getting back from my trip, I’ve started the process myself – and I already feel better. So let’s get started!

Japan Vs. America: The Showdown Begins

I’m going to break this comparison down into three rounds: food, exercise habits, and finally society (because I think that’s an important factor). Let’s begin with food.

Round 1: Food (Tabemono)

To be blunt, Japanese people eat better food than we do, and they eat less of it than we do.

I’ll start this off with a personal example. A few days into our trip, we stumbled across a place called Mos Burger, which is a pretty basic Japanese burger joint. The food was good, but when I left I felt a bit unsatisfied. Why?

Well, for the ~$6.50 I paid for my meal there, I got a small burger about the size of a dollar burger from Wendy’s (I haven’t been there in so long I don’t remember the name), a small packet of fries that would probably be a kids’ size here, and glass of soda – not a giant cup, as our mediums are here, but a small glass.

As a 195-pound guy with a typical American appetite, this really didn’t fill me up. However, I realized that this is a normal portion in Japan, and it honestly should be a normal portion for anyone. There’s no way I need three cheeseburgers and a large fry to feel full – that’s just how we’ve learned to be here in the states.

And that’s really a huge part of it. Japanese portions – both at home and in restaurants – tend to be smaller than what we get here in the U.S. When we dine out, we get our money’s worth, dad gom it, and that means $10 gets you a 1lb patty and a big plate of fries with lots of ranch dressing.

heart attack grill (image courtesy of Flickr user The Heart Attack Grill)

Now that's a meal.... or three

Also, people actually eat at mealtimes. Here in America, we tend to eat our big meals and snack all day. When I did my internship last summer, I had a can of mixed nuts and M&M’s that I would munch on for the entire work day. I noticed lots of similar snacks in other people’s cubes as well. For us, eating is as much a boredom-killer as a hunger-killer.

In Japan, however, people eat their meals and that’s about it. Work hours are long there, and the corporate culture is such that it isn’t really acceptable to be eating at your desk all day.

People snack less on the go as well, because it really just isn’t cool to do so (we’ll get to this in the Society Round). Most people don’t drive cars in Japan; they walk and take trains. They don’t have comfortable little moving boxes with drink holders and door compartments for shoving Snicker wrappers. Heck – there are barely any trash cans in public to speak of.

At mealtimes, Japanese people tend to spread their food out among multiple dishes that often take up the entire table. This serves to make less food seem like more, and to make it take longer to eat.

Chopsticks serve a similar purpose; using them to eat your food takes quite a bit longer than using a fork or a knife. They’re a utensil that actually hinders your ability to eat, which is a good thing – it makes you slow down. 

When you eat slowly, your body is able to tell you when it’s really had enough. Here in America, we tend to eat so fast that, by the time the stomach can catch up and tell us to stop, we’ve already eaten too much.

“It’s hard to enjoy your food if it goes by too quickly” – Leo Babauta, Zen Habits

Japanese food tends to be a lot healthier as well. Yes, they have McDonald’s there. Yes, they have lots of convenience stores that sell big chocolate chip melonpans and tons of interesting sodas that taste way better than ours do – trust me, I spend way too much yen at these kinds of stores.

However, this isn’t the bulk of what the Japanese eat. Far from it.

With regards to their rare snacking, many Japanese will opt for an onigiri – a triangular ball of rice wrapped in seaweed and filled with tuna, beef, or veggies. Quite a lot better than a donut.

Japanese meals are extremely varied and diverse, but they often contain foods like fish, rice, seaweed, lots of veggies, bone broth, and a ton of other good stuff. Much better than a cheeseburger or a pizza.

japanese food

This was delicious

You might be thinking, “But Japanese people eat so much rice! How can they do that and stay so thin?”

It’s true that rice is pretty carb-heavy, and that they eat a lot of it. However, as a single part of the diverse group of foods they eat, it doesn’t really do that much damage. Plus, as far as grains go, rice is pretty kick-ass. Check it:

  • it’s a non-toxic source of glucose
  • it’s free of gut irritants (that wheat has)
  • it’s associated with lower cardiovascular disease (wheat is associated with higher risk)

Wanna read more about why Asians can eat so much rice and not get fat? Check out Mark Sisson’s awesome post on the subject.

That leads me to my last topic in this round: drinks.

Here in America, we drink a lot of calorie-heavy beverages. We drink milk, soda, juice, beer, and lots of other stuff, and we drink a lot. We’re a fan of big gulps here in the states. When I used to eat at the dining centers, my friend Collin and I would each get three glasses of milk with our food and usually have one done before we even took a bite.

“If milk came out of garden hoses, I’d just stick a hose down my throat and turn it on full blast. YOLO” – Collin Gross (I may have made that up)

Contrast that to Japan – most of what people drink is low or no-calorie. It’s mainly water and unsweetened tea. In fact, many restaurants we went to didn’t even offer drinks on the menu; you just get a small glass of water or tea. You can ask for refills, of course, but you can never just sit there and chug.

So, once again, Japanese people tend to eat better food than we do and less of it. Now let’s take a look at their exercise habits.

Round 2: Exercise (Undousuru)

So, is part of the Japanese lifestyle getting up every day at 5 AM and doing kettlebell swings in their apartments? Not quite.

Actually, going to the gym and consciously exercising really doesn’t have anything to do with why Japanese people are so healthy. That kind of exercise is what I call planned exercise, and it’s what most of us have to do to stay active. Unfortunately, a lot of us tend to skip workouts all too often for planned exercise to work too well.

“Just buy this plastic thingy and wiggle around on it for 15 minutes, three times a week, and you’ll have a shredded six-pack, toned biceps, and a huge penis!” – some TV guy, probably Vince if he’s finally out of jail

In Japan, people are always doing unplanned exercise – the kind of exercise that just arises through everyday living.

This is because Japan is a country that necessitates exercise – especially walking. The cities aren’t built for cars at all; most people take public transportation to get where they need to go.

This means having to walk to the station in the morning, stand on crowded trains, walk between transfer points, and then walk to your destination once you get to the correct station. In between lie lots and lots of stairs. There’s not a lot of sitting on your butt involved in getting around a place like Tokyo.

lol quinton

Don't be fooled by the smile... there were a million more stairs and he was SO MAD

In America, sitting on our butts is just about all we do. Most of us sit at work or class all day, and then we come home and sit around playing video games or watching TV. Maybe we go and work out for half an hour, but then for the other 23.5 hours of the day we’re on our duffs.

When we need to go somewhere, there isn’t a whole lot of walking involved. We certainly don’t have to walk 10 blocks to a train station and then 10 more from the next station to our destination (unless you live in New York). We just get in our cars and drive to where we want to go – and once we get there, we’re so lazy that we actually complain about having to park near the back of the parking lot when it’s crowded. Say it with me now… it’s fucking pathetic.

Sadly, this is how America is built. We’re a nation of drivers, and we have an infrastructure built to suit that lifestyle. Even if you want to walk somewhere, oftentimes your destination is just too far away. We’ve separated our homes from the places we need to go simply because we can drive there.

“America is a car country, and has been for about a hundred years. We don’t – and haven’t for over 50 years – have to walk to get around.” – Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple

Also, Japanese city infrastructure simply isn’t as “accessible”. Well, not to overweight people, at least; it’s way more accessible for blind people, as almost every sidewalk has a strip of bumps on it to guide them.

However, for people of considerable girth, the cites aren’t so forgiving. I came across lots of escalators that had metal poles at their entrances, creating gaps only thin people could go through comfortably. Seats on the trains are built for thin people, and bench seats all have cushion indents, so it’s very obvious if you’re taking up more than one spot.

So when it comes down to it, Japanese people pretty much have to exercise more than we do. This sort of slow, frequent exercise is excellent for health – daily walking is shown to help us live longer, have greater insulin sensitivity, and has lots of other benefits as well.

Can’t say the same for jamming to Livin’ on a Prayer in your Honda Civic.

Round Three: Society (Shakai)

Japanese society plays a large role in keeping its people healthy, just as ours plays a large role in how easy it is to get fat.

In America, getting fat is almost seen as no big deal. Over half of our population is overweight, according to my TV, so if you do it, who cares? It’s not like it’s a rare thing to see.

Couple that will all the ridiculous books, documentaries, and Oprah segments that blame everyone but the individual for our health epidemic.

“Oh, it’s not your fault – blame the grocery stores for making healthy food more expensive than Twinkies. Blame the government for subsidizing corn production. Blame your genetics. Blame McDonald’s for putting addictive chemicals in their food. BLAME PAULA DEAN FOR USING HER EVIL VOODOO POWERS TO RIVET YOUR EYES TO HER SHOW AND IMPLANT IRRESISTIBLE URGES TO CONSUME GALLONS OF BUTTER IN YOUR BRAINS.” – idiots

Now, add those together, and couple that with American sensitivity. Yep, we’ve definitely got some of the thinnest skins in the world, and it’s a damn shame. If you point out the fact that someone’s gained weight, it’s a insensitive insult instead of a caring attempt to point out a health issue.

With all of these societal issues stacked up, it’s no wonder people feel no pressure to stay healthy. They absolutely overwhelm any jealousy over movie stars and fitness models we may have.

Now let’s look at Japan. Japanese society puts massive pressure on people to stay healthy.

You have to really look at the core of the Japanese society to get at the main reason for this. And at that core, you find this truth: Japanese society is much more about conforming to expectations and fitting in than American society is.

We here in America put much, much more emphasis on individual expression, independent thought, standing out, and sticking it to the man. It’s why Japanese people line up for trains while New Yorkers just crowd the platform and elbow each other. It’s why Japanese people are so ridiculously polite and quiet. It’s why, out of the 40 people on a train car, my friend Ryan and I are the only people wearing Pikachu and Cheshire Cat hats and cracking jokes while everyone else quietly looks at their phones.

That expectation to conform extends to the body as well. It’s basically expected that you be thin in Japan, because everyone else is. Now, that doesn’t mean that the few overweight people in Japan are shunned or anything – that doesn’t happen at all – but there’s still this unspoken expectation. Since people are born into a society that conforms, they place the expectation on themselves – even if nobody is outwardly saying it.

subway packers

Fit in.

However, that quietness doesn’t quite extend to the act of pointing out a change in health or weight gain. People in Japan are less sensitive about it, and are more apt to point it out. In fact, this is common in most countries that aren’t the U.S. – people just tend to be more blunt.

Individuals tend to notice health changes themselves as well, and are more apt to do something about it – again, out of that urge to conform.

“The “WTF, I’m fat!” alarm sounds sooner in Japan than in the United States.” – commenter on this post

When you couple this expectation to conform with the fact that the cities are less accessible to those who are overweight, and the fact that the largest t-shirt size there is about the size of an American large, you get a society that keeps its people healthy.

How to Apply These Habits to Your Life

Alright, so you should now have a pretty good idea of how Japanese people stay healthy through their food, the exercise they do, and their society. How can you apply these principles to your own life?

Since this post is already long enough, I’m simply going leave you with a short list of things you can do in order to use the Japanese way of living to build lasting habits.

  • Stop eating out so much – learn to cook meals at home
  • Ditch the canned and frozen dinner – buy REAL FOOD and learn to prepare it. Get more meat and veggies, and eat more rice and less wheat
  • Store less food – walk/ride your bike to the store more often. This gives you more “unskippable” exercise and lets you buy more fresh food
  • Stop treating food like something that should be worked in “real quick” in a busy day. Alter your schedule so you have adequate time to prepare and eat your food slowly.
  • Gradually start reducing your portions. Eventually your stomach will shrink to its normal size and you’ll no longer feel like you need so much food to be full
  • Drink less calorie-heavy drinks. Switch to water or tea.
  • Get a juicer and make fresh veggie/fruit juice every day. This isn’t really a Japanese thing to do, but I do it every day and it works wonders 😀
  • Stop going to fast food places. Eating out should be a special occasion, so get the good stuff when you do it.
  • If you’re on a meal plan and have an “all-you-can-eat” dining center, limit yourself to one plate, or at least get only one plate at the start and make yourself actually get up for seconds instead of loading up in one trip.
  • Force yourself into getting more unplanned exercise. Instead of studying in your dorm or apartment, find a cool spot on campus or in a coffee shop a little ways away, and walk to it every day.
  • Stop being over-sensitive and let your friends know they should do the same. If you’re really good friends, you should care about the well-being of one another. Don’t be afraid to point out if someone is being unhealthy, and don’t be offended if someone does the same to you. If you are unhealthy, having that fact pointed out may hurt – but it’s a lot better than your friends just silently allowing you to hurt yourself physically.
  • Last one – Visit Japan to experience the Japanese’ healthy habits firsthand 😀

So, what do you think of the Japanese lifestyle? Do you plan to apply any of these habits to your own life? Is there something I missed that you’d like to include? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Also – if I got anything wrong about the Japanese culture, feel free to let me know. I was only there for two weeks, so I’m going off of limited observation and research I did while writing this article. I might still be a baka gaijin.


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  1. Interesting until the portion about societal reasons people are thin- getting healthy because of pressures to conform is so fucked up. Fat-shaming will NOT solve obesity. It will however raise eating disorder rates dramatically (which is a prevalent problem in Japan). And the author makes huge generalizations about two cultures. This article sounds like it was written by either a huge narcissist, or an incredibly insecure, health-obsessed individual that idolizes an entire nation of people because he’s so afraid of getting fat. How bout we care about people’s personalities and not their waistline, thanks.

    • I lived in Japan for three years — and there is a huge pressure to conform, weight-wise and beauty/looks. Many of the women felt that they weren’t beautiful enough so there seemed to be this endless search for perfection — resulting in eating disorders, expensive fashion, skin lightening, eye surgeries… Those types were not my friends because I found them uninteresting. The girlfriends I made were highly active (running, hiking, gym-going, etc) — and ate whatever they wanted and didn’t dwell on beauty rituals as a result. These pressures occur like other large metropolitan city, however, one main difference is that it is more of a patriarchy there. After having children, the women often leave their professions or become stagnant. I don’t think that is healthy for women or men. I agree with Regina in that way. Also we (Americans) could learn to eat more fruits and vegetables — and make fresh foods inexpensive and accessible. Conversely, many foods in Japan are processed, salty, fried or starchy — and that is a problem for the health of younger generations. So there is a higher prevalence of fatty liver disease, arteriosclerosis, hypertension and type II diabetes — leading to heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

  2. Hi, again, Thomas,
    I worked out a way to copy your blog -one paragraph at a time!
    But, I wanted to say you gave it a lot of thought and had many interesting points I had not considered about the lifestyle here. I agree they just don’t think about it – they are taught early and often the importance of good health. A healthy body was important not just for the person themselves but for the whole community back in the rice farming days. I also agree there is more shame about weight here. I guess it is good if it keeps people healthy, but I think it also is part of a culture that leads to Kayoshi, working yourself to death. I think they were lucky in part to be an agricultural country that also is very dependent on the sea for its protein. This was just a part of the diet here for so long that it is ingrained in the psyche. Thanks for your thoughtful post!

  3. Hi, Thomas,

    I teach English in Japan and wanted to copy this article you wrote on Japanese healthy lifestyles and unfortunately it does not cut and paste. It is a great read and says many things I have thought about since moving here 10 years ago.

    Is it possible for me to get a copy and do you mind me sharing it with my Nutrition students?



  4. Profanity aside, this is a good read. Here in America we really think we are on top of the world. We are arrogant, proud, blame everyone else but ourselves for our shortcomings, and attempt to convert others to our ways. Therefore, Japanese and other societies should also be commended for shunning American influence, since Hollywood and our music industry have global reach.
    I loved your observation of a simple train ride. If you have the good fortune to be humbled and thereby learn to take notice of the little things in life, you will find innumerable evidences that you are, as God made you, nothing more than dust. Spend your time here on Earth, wisely.

    • Stop America bashing. It’s wrong. It’s unfair. And, it’s untrue. All cultures have their good points and bad points. I will say that America is the only conquering country in the history of the world, as I know it, to give aid to their former enemies to rebuild their countries. That includes Japan and Germany. That is something to be proud about. We also fought a civil war over slavery. Tuskegee College was founded and funded by white American women. America is not perfect — far from it —- but, at least we thought enough to try.

      Did Japan try? Did Germany try? Get real.

  5. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and genetics is what dictates ones build/frame. To me most Asians are child-size-little, skinny and flat, flat heads, flat faces and flat arses. This isn’t attractive to me. Some men with masculinity and neither region size problems like such women because they appear more manly coupled with them. As a woman, I don’t find a man who’s hardly wider than my hands side by side to be attractive. As for health, I don’t know any immortal Asians and if we live long enough regardless of race or nationality, we all look the same— like prunes. My dad was once a big, tall man but now at 91, he’s toothless, wrinkled and skinny (but still tall 6’4″). So, if you want to admire a certain group of people, go right ahead but you don’t have to knock others to do so.

    • “So, if you want to admire a certain group of people, go right ahead but you don’t have to knock others to do so.” *slowly moves back to the list of physical traits you knocked about a certain group of people…* Way to practice what you preach, good job!

    • You sound jealous of Asian women who are with Caucasian guys and show it by putting down their masculinity and the looks of the women they are with. Most of the guys I know who date Asian women are what were once considered by our society to be the “cream of the crop”. Namely the guys who treated women the best, had the highest earning potential, highest intelligence and know how to dress. You very rarely see the types of guys that wear backwards baseball caps and tattoos, who listen to rap music and don’t have a job with Asian women. They are usually with equally rough women of their own race. If there were more high quality Caucasian women to go around, most Caucasian guys by default, would be with those women.

      • Anton Burgher You hit it where it hurts. Personally I am thin, definetely not lacking in my sexual parts ahem and I find Japanese women super beautiful. Actually I am madly in love with a singer from the 90’s aaaahhh, the thing about their beauty is that it is a natural beauty. Some say South Koreans are more nice looking, but is widely known now that Korean women are plastic cirgury addicts. All in all, no comparison.

        My dream is to get a very good job, gather some good amount of money and go to Japan, make a a girl fall for me somehow, and just bring her with me here to my country in latin america. I would give anything to see the look on everybodies faces filled with awe and envy! Hahahah Dreams!

  6. I am inspired by the Japanese. I think I should really change my lifestyle and for the better.

  7. HI, I am Japanese who lives in the States. I’ve been living in Indianapolis for over a year now. So my English is not perfect but I would like to comment here to say thank you. Thank you very much for your article about Japanese diet and your positive thoughts.
    After I read your wonderful article and other people’s comments including some negative ones here is what I think.

    You are what you eat.
    I think Japanese traditional diet is one of the most beautifying in the world but Japanese do eat fatty food sometimes like tempura/deep fried sea food and vegetable, karaage/ deep fried chicken or tonkatsu/ deep fried pork etc.. ( but we try to use good low calorie vegetable oil and never use same oil again when we deep fry food at home.) and also there are many first food shops like MacDonalds ,Starbucks and donuts shops or bakeries in Japan as well which many people like to eat at. Younger generation may eat more American junk food these days so some people are over weights in Japan as well. However, It’s true that Japanese eat lots of sea food especially fresh raw fish which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which help reduce the body’s production of the inflammatory chemicals involved in the ageing process. I am vegetarian, eat sea food but never eat meat. We also mainly drink water or green tea. I love coffee with soy milk which has no sugar in it. When we eat we eat with miso soup so we don’t really need sweet drink for meal. We also care about where the food come from. Try to eat lots of organic food and support local business ( local farmers or shops ) as much as we can. Most of time there are labeled where the food come from on packages. We don’t stock food because there isn’t much extra space in most of Japanese standard houses but also we like to eat anything fresh.
    Like you said eating slowly and not to eat big portion is the key to stay healthy.

    2. We LOVE bath.
    Bath time is important. Onsen/Hot spring or bathtub at home. We clean, scrub dead skin everyday. Take good care of hair and skin. Bath is steaming hot and usually we use bath essential oil essences of various organic herbs and green tea. Perfect for beautifying the skin, as well as de-stressing before bedtime after busy day at work or school.
    Someone mentioned about stress so I would like to comment about that. Japanese companies normally have Saturdays and Sundays off. If they have to work weekends they can take other two days off on weekdays. We are only supposed to work 8 hours a day. If you want to work extra hours companies pay really good for over work time so some people choose to work more and we are proud of hard workers. Yes, some people are unlucky to have bad bosses, teachers or even parents but this kind of problems are all over the world not just in Japan, right? You can change the job if you don’t like what you do anytime so I don’t think Japanese are stressed as much as 70 years ago. If you work in good companies they usually have great cafeterias and offer free healthy lunch for staff. Every public schools are the same.

    3. Fruits
    I am not sure if you noticed when you were in Japan. Fruits in Japan may expensive but they are really good and juicy.
    Eating seasonal fruits which is full of vitamin c is also healthy and because fruits is so sweet we eat fruits instead of eating sugary dessert. I like rice cake but I don’t eat cookies or muffins but this is just me. I am sure some Japanese love sweets.

    4. About Japanese women
    Thank you very much for your kind words about Japanese women. As one of Japanese women I am happy to hear that. I am sorry but I am afraid I am not beautiful or young anymore though. ( but my American friends tell me that I still look like 20th. I am 43 year old. )
    You are right about most of Japanese women are very skinny and I know many Japanese women who are beautiful. I think they are beautiful because they care about their looks and beauty. But personally I think having gorgeous curves like many American women are also beautiful…. just my opinion but for me beauty comes from inside. If you are a kind person and care about environment and living positively you’ll naturally smile. And “smile” has a great power of making people beautiful. Someone mentioned about Japanese having a bad teeth. Yes, That is correct. Not everyone could spend fortune to fix teeth but it has been changing nowadays.
    The Japanese have a concept called “Mie-nai Oshare.” This translates to “unseen beauty” a beauty that does not have to be necessarily displayed to be seen. It refers to a poise and confidence that expensive products and cosmetics can’t buy, and to an inner glow of happiness that comes from wearing a favourite dress, eating a good real meal, and remembering to treat yourself well and have good time and laugh with someone you love… so I guess not every Japanese are quiet. I am polite but not quiet. I love to talk. It seems Japanese are quiet because most of time we have good manners when we are in public places. We don’t disturb other people. This is why any public restrooms in Japan are so clean compare to the States.

    5. Walking
    I have been living in the States for a year and it is true that I can not go anywhere without car.
    I miss walking to supermarkets or convenient stores or even to train stations. I try to walk at least 20- 40 minutes everyday inside of my village or even in the shopping mall here.
    On weekend I go for a long walk to the parks with my family even in winter time. I don’t do any heavy workout to torture myself or spend money to go to expensive gym or class. I just need to walk in fresh air everyday which makes me happy and stay healthy.

    6. Slow Food
    I think it’s fine to eat out. sometimes you want first food then that’s fine too. but eat slowly. I don’t like wasting food so I eat everything. My grand father taught me well for not wasting food. In Japan we call it “MOTTAINAI” . I really think American portion are too big and more than enough. I usually take left over home and eat it next day but never waste food. We all need to think about people who are hungry because of not enough food and appreciate the fact that we can eat everyday.

    7. Peace
    Japan is one of the most enchanting countries culturally, Japan has the third largest economy in the world. Since the World War II, Japan has been really peaceful, with little internal conflict and low crime. The country settles on an internal security force in order to maintain the peace. Japan is a peaceful as well as breathtakingly beautiful country worth visiting.
    Like someone mentioned, Japan has suicide issue (which country doesn’t?) and it is really sad that someone had to choose to die like that but because country is so peaceful it is one of few horrible ways that people die in Japan. I personally believe giving up living is wrong but people who suicide must have some problems which we never knew what they had to go though in their life. Robin Williams’ case is a good example for that. We just don’t know what happened in their life and what made him decide to do so. Japanese may die by natural disasters or sickness but most of Japanese people especially women live long time and most of over 80 years old women look still healthy and young. At least Japanese don’t have to die with hunger or killed by guns.

    I would like to thank you again for your positive article about Japanese diet and Japan. I think it is totally up to each of us that if we want to stay healthy and good shape or not. As long as we are happy about ourselves. I am glad to hear that you had a good experience in Japan. I appreciate your article.

    • Hi 🙂
      I’m so inspired by your kind replying words. I have some (female) Japanese friends but they stay in America. I’ll be glad to be your friend if you don’t mind 🙂
      Greetings from Indonesia..

    • Kako:
      You wouldn’t believe me if I told you that when you talked about “Mie-nai Oshare” you hit right in my heart. You see I suffer from an illness of chronic pain, and I had become a sad person.
      Suddenly last year something so beatiful happened to me, I somehow fell in love with a Japanese singer from the 90’s. But believe me when I tell it not because of her outside beauty, but for her inner beauty. And when I saw her eyes I saw the light of the moon reflected there and somehow through her songs I undertood one incredible thing: That if I have love in my heart, even if Im alone and have no one, I have it all.
      I saw Mie-nai Oshare and since then I have seen it in many Japanese eyes, and I feel so sad that some are not loved how they should be loved when they have such beauty… inside.

  8. Lol me everyday……. just eats rice. ……. walks to train station and climbs a zillion stairs up….. walks into school then walks upstairs to classrooms….. walks more to go outside of school building……. home time…. walks home from train…… walks to library to do homework…….. walks more……. eats more rice………. then eats some snacks….. *I’m not japanese……. but it works* ……………….. so yeah walk….. it’s worth it and eat rice

  9. This article’s fun and useful! I love how it gave tips that were not exaggerated. 😀 I’m excited to try this out!

  10. I am from south east asia who learned different cultures we are a poor family but I was able to attend a private school, that is why I learned a lot about the world even without travelling outside the country. I have classmates who came from a very rich families they are fat and slobs who parade themselves with fancy whatnots, I have foreign classmates that are quite fun to be with my classmates compose of Indians, Half-Americans, Chinese, Japanese, and varied nationalities. Some of this people totally look handsome and beautiful compared to our pure breeds not saying that my own kind are all uglies. But definitely there are people who is not given an opportunity to have a perfect physical appearance. (I was even dumped by my crush when I tried to confess my love. I’ve never dare to fall in love again.) Most of the guys in my class are quite the definition of an athlete especially the varsity guys, they are tall and big. I just wish I am a half-breed asian so I can have muscles, abs, and height! you will have that advantage here in Asian country!

    I adore the Russian physique! because I saw in youtube how good their physique is! especially some of my idols in fitness (young guy in youtube who endorse calisthenics programs!) in such young age they attained physical perfection and they look so strong! I wish I was like that 🙁

    When it comes down to it I started doing calisthenics I see results but not as defined as my idols. Time will tell and great effort will prove results. But I guess a big factor is the gene pool, in our family no one carries a perfect physique. Some are fat and some thin.

  11. This is true of most Asian cities. I grew up in Taiwan until I was 15; the city I lived in was so convenient that you really didn’t have to drive anywhere. I took the train and subway everywhere, and buses were very accessible. HOWEVER, they have a very, very sick image of what’s beautiful, and as a girl growing up there, I still cannot shake that shadow from me. I cannot explain why, but I simply think being skinny, with thigh gaps and a little bit of hip bone showing, is attractive. Also, Japanese as well as Taiwanese women (Taiwan was colonized by Japan for 50 years) all feed into the ridiculous crap of crazy dieting pills, cellulite massaging sticks, fat-burning gels, etc.

  12. I think eating fish, is one of the facts that let Japanese be as healthy as they are, I went to Japan 3 months ago, and I have been talking with a lot of friends from Japan and want to add this:
    – They are very busy people, so they stop thinking in food or eat a snack during the day; some people forget to eat.
    – Is true that they work a lot, but if they have some time, they take a nap, if they are riding a train, or they have some time in the middle of work they take a nap. Taking a nap during the day helps.
    – Green tea, yeah, as you wrote there, they just take water and tea, but it´s not just the low calories of this beverage, but green tea helps to stay young and healthy.
    – Is a secure country, even if they are stressed at job, they don’t have to worry about somebody to thief you or hurt you. The stress that Latin people, or American people live are part of why we get fat.

  13. okay! now i’m like “DAD: i want to visit japan right NOW!”
    i’v always loved japan because i’m learning the language and i watch a lot of japanes manga and i did know that they’re way healthier then the rest of people but now that you told us the detailes i’m even more excited to see it with my own eyes ! even if it’s not about losing weight you made me want to have a healthier lifestyle !
    thank you ! u’re a good person for sharing you experience with people

  14. Great article! I also love reading articles about Japan and Japanese lifestyle and culture so it was really interesting to read! I also have to approve that unplanned exercise like walking and riding your bike is somehow necessary especially when you live in a city. I’ve been to the US three times before but I don’t know about the public transport there as we rent a car for our vacation there, however, I’m from Germany and moved from a small village (3,000 inhabitants) – where it’s necessary to have a car (as a bus only drives every 3 hours and never on weekends) to get into the nearby city or whereever you want to go – to Munich (1,3 million inhabitants). I sold my car because first of all it’s really horrible to drive around Munich as it’s (like in every big city) just crowded and everywhere are traffic jams, red lights, trams which get in your way when you want to take a turn (and the trams have priority so it’s really scary!!! when you want to take a turn left, you stand on the tracks of the tram and suddenly there’s a huge train coming behind you and expecting you to get the **** out of it’s way!) and it’s just very stressful because it takes you ages to get anywhere. Secondly, Munich’s public transport is really good and you can get everywhere in a much shorter time as it offers busses, trams, s-bahn and a huge underground system. Although you can really get everywhere only taking public transport and without having to walk a milage, I forced myself to walk a lot or take my bike to go where i wanted. For example, sometimes I walk home from work (which is about 4km or 2,48 miles) which takes a while but you can really see a lot and get to know the city and your neighborhood better which is a really nice side-effect in my opinion 🙂 And of course I have to walk to the grocery store every week (luckily it’s not that far away but still it’s better than using the car). I really got used to walking around now that I live here and I have to say it became some kind of a secret love of mine 😀

    Moreover I love asian food and I often shop in asian grocery stores as they really have delicious food and especially tea! I love tea! I just realized I wrote a lot but I still hope you’ll read it as I really appreciate your work and your opinion on American vs Japanese diet as I think it’s really important to point out that it’s also our society who influences the lifestyle and diet of us.

    I also have to admit that it’s the first article I’ve read from you as I didn’t know about this site before but I think I’ll start reading here more often because I like your writing style (it’s actually funny and easy-to-read) and I think I can learn alot about the American way of living and more.

    • Sabrina,

      Glad you liked the article. America is pretty similar to where you’re from; aside from the really big cities, public transit isn’t very good and you pretty much need a car to get anywhere. You can sort of get by in certain areas with Amtrak, taxis, and Uber, but that’d be really expensive and limiting. Unfortunately most of our rail infrastructure is used for freight and there isn’t much available for future passenger lines – so we’ll probably be sticking with cars for the foreseeable future!

  15. Excellent advice. Hit the point completely. I love Japanese culture and food. I live in the UK and I wish it was like that here. Sign* but at least I can change if no one else does. 🙂

  16. I’ve actually taken some consideration in silverware, i was able to buy these really small silver ware and it has drastically made my eaten habits better, i still get the big portions, but not as often., and to do that i bought smaller plates. I still drive everywhere i go, but instead of playing video games like Halo 4 mon-fri, i play them on Saturdays and Sundays. Mon-Fri, i go and look what my city has to offer. Met some really nice people that i thought were going to mug me, lol. But, its was just there look. Also take in consideration that japan does not have the population and the Extreme Diversity in people, that the U.S. has. I see that countries with low diversity in cultural s, are really clean, nice countries.  Loved that article. 

  17. Lots of great information, and I can tell you present it from the place in you that really wants to help people. Just want to remind readers that weight is a complex issue that doesn’t directly relate to health. I’d argue that for most people who are unhealthily overweight or underweight, there are mental aspects that being Japanese-minded won’t fix. Self-hate or using an inflated body to ‘protect’ from physical abuse can be a lot harder to overcome than managing portion sizes or eating fewer carbs.

    Eating disorders are deadly, and not just for sufferers who weigh 100 pounds.

    • This is a prime example of the social factors that contribute to our health or lack thereof. The people you are referring to; those with eating disorders in either end of the spectrum, are a MINUTE portion of the American population. You are using the example to “deflect”. Of course you use a few cursory compliments to take the readers’ guard down a bit, but you are merely making excuses. It’s classic “enabling”. Eating disorders are definitely a serious medical concern, but are NOT the primary cause of DEATH in our country. OBESITY IS!

      I’ve lived in NYC my entire life, and I have seen the changes with my own eyes. When I was a kid, there were maybe 3-4 kids in school who were considered fat. Now these same body types are considered normal or average, because better than a third of the kids are obese. Many parents don’t seem to care, or have fooled themselves into believing it’s normal and healthy for 5th graders to weigh well over 100 lbs. Many of the other kids are the same, so “it must be normal” NONSENSE!

      This is about perception!!! OUR perception, as a society, of what constitutes a fat person is skewed horribly. I travel all over the country, and yes maybe only 40-50% of the population is obese, but WELL OVER 80% IS OVERWEIGHT! The south in particular is dialysis center after dialysis center, with a few heart centers sprinkled between. I am fat! I’m 5’6″ and 175 lbs., and keenly aware that I need to get in better shape, but when I travel, people consider me thin. That’s ridiculous, and is the real issue with our society. When the average American reads the reports about overweight people, they envision some 300+lb. slob riding a Walmart scooter. That’s the “deathly obese”, not just overweight. Those people will die 20 years before their time. The others who think they’re “average” will spend their last decade or more on medications, dialysis machines, stents being implanted and the like. And they think they’re the HEALTHY ONES!

      We’ve spent the last 30 years being PC, and advocating a “healthy” view of one’s own body, and all we’ve done is lowered the bar to an absurd level. Anorexics, Bulimics, and the like are suffering from psychological disorders that would manifest themselves in some way regardless. It is NOT due to the “unachievable example of beauty set by the media” as many of us like to blame. It’s Bull! They are emotionally damaged, and need medical help. NOT EXCUSES.

      90% of Americans NEVER travel outside our borders. We are all delusional as hell. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the world doesn’t see us all as fat because they’re “jealous” of our wealth, lifestyles, or freedoms. Many have the same freedoms, more wealth, and higher quality living. They see us as fat because WE ARE!

      • Wow, this is so funny! Thanks for the direct and honest opinion. It is so true and direct to the point, and made me laugh out loud! I have visited US many times and am from Canada and every time I visited US, I am so amazed the level of obesity and so many big people in the US, most people over there are obese…and huge to the point it is hard to find nice clothes in the US for small sized people. Portions are so big, much bigger than any countries I have visited in my entire life there, and everyone drinks coca cola or some type of sugary drinks, and we don’t always drink pop when we eat…different countries different culture, but I noticed a lot of people in the US eat lots of fast food in big portions. American people drink pop like water…

  18. I agree that Japanese home cooking is really healthy, but I’m not sure how much I agree with this article.

    Ok, maybe the food portions thing is a perspective issue because I’m from Singapore where food portions are quite tiny (America was a huge shock). But for most guys, they actually ask for 大盛り (the large portion) when they order their meals. And university students are really huge fans of all-you-can-eat buffets :p

    But my university (Kyushu University) actually serves mostly fried food. Arguably, it comes with salad, but most of us get sick of the oil after a while (or at least, we complain a lot).

    Oh yeah, I wanted to write about the snacking thing. I can’t speak for the whole of Japan, but most Japanese university students snack a lot. Either that or only students in my school snack a lot. It’s either Pocky or chocolate, or something chocolate-based.

    But I totally agree on the whole walking/biking thing. I actually think that’s the main reason why Japanese people are so slim. That and the huge pressure to stay slim.

    Well, just my two yen anyway. ^^

    • Eustacia,

      Great to hear your perspective. I think you’re right about the walking thing; I’ve read that, in recent years, the diets of younger Japanese people have started drifting closer to the Standard American (crap) Diet, which is a shame. So while they’ve definitely got a healthier population than we do, it’s getting worse.

      However, I do have to say that Japanese fast food places and convenience stores seem to offer healthier options – at least in my experience. Whereas all you’ll find at the gas stations where I live are burritos, hot dogs, and maybe some sandwiches, in Japan I can get curry and other things for cheap 🙂

  19. Yes! I stayed with a japanese family for 2 weeks on exchange just recently. It took 1 hour to get to school and half of that was walking then after school we would take the train for 15m than just bike the rest of the way home. We only ever ate at mealtimes and the food is so much healthier and filling (the only sweet thing they bought from the kiosk was pocky) and the mother got up at 5:00am every school morning ( 6 days a week) just to start our bento boxes. I wish we were this smart!

    • The walking sure does add up when you think about it! My feet were definitely sore at the end of each day in Japan; however, it doesn’t feel like exercise because it’s just what you have to do to get around. It’s necessity – which is what makes it so great 🙂

  20. This article is wonderful. I was never over 110 lbs until I was in my mid 40’s. Always thin thin. I can relate to the Japanese diet. When I was young I ate small portions. More active (walked, rode bikes and public transit). I rarely thought about food. Ate what I needed. My mom finally stopped bugging me. Said I ate like a bird. Computers, cars and 24/7 advertising of food, restaurants, food shows etc. Ain’t helping. On the other hand we’re also now overwhelmed with getting healthy and/or thin. It’s just a theory, but I think the more we try to do it the worse we get. I haven’t owned a car in years otherwise I think I would be seriously overweight. Loved the article your humor–and frankness are cool. Americans are overly sensitive in this country. Spoiled and privileged.

  21. Totally enjoyed this post. You captured the culture as I saw it too when I visited. (But – cough cough – the business guys sure drink heavily at night. But even then since they’re working until 8 pm, it starts late.) I saw the same healthy eating and lotsa walking in Korea. Especially the oldsters – quite fit! Thanks for writing this!

    • Glad you enjoyed it! I wonder how those business guys can afford to drink so much – booze is expensive in Japan! The Shibuya bar we went to charged me 650 yen for a rum and coke, which was mainly just coke 😛

  22. I wish I could walk/ride my bike everywhere where I live, but it just can’t be done. It get’s so friggin cold here and everything is sooooo cold !

    So anyways I lost a whole bunch of weight and although my friends and school mates accepted me it was the older aunties going craazy about ‘how thin I have gotten’ and how ‘weak’ I look. I am 110 pounds and 5’4 ! That isn’t bad.

    • I’m guessing you live up in Canada? Haha – here in Iowa it’s also too cold to go biking very often. I went for a 1.5 mile walk this morning, and my face was absolutely numb when I got back.

      Also – that’s a fine weight. It really bugs me when crazy family members freak out when someone tries to get healthy. It’s like you’re threatening or somehow criticizing their own lifestyles just by virtue of changing your own, so they feel they have to tell you it’s a bad thing. It’s definitely not, so great job!

  23. Very informative read! This really jump starts the research I intend to do on the Japanese diet and look forward to applying the knowledge you presented =)

  24. Hi Thomas, I absolutely love love love this article! Great job. I loss nearly 100 pounds in 2007 and kept it off and now I’m going all the way for bikini thin (from size 6 to size 4). So I have already adopted much of what you wrote. I walk a lot and only use my car some weekends. I make sure I eat veggies everyday and drink mostly water now of lemon tea. I really enjoyed your social aspect of conforming. You made me a brand new believer in the benefits of conforming. The topic of people being sensitive if anyone acknowledges they gained weight was simply brilliant. I would also like to add the flip side of that as I have also experienced a lot of hate for losing weight. I mean it is serious; some friends and family cannot stand the sight of me in my newly found beauty and happiness and I have been almost forced to diminish in some peoples’ company or they will try to find some way to verbally attack me. It’s taken me a while to learn how to deal with this hate (mostly from women). Do you have any advice? I mean I can’t exactly say “don’t hate me because I’m thin and beautiful” LOL. Sometimes I think the hate runs even deeper; I think they hate that I’m a real nice person too…smdh. But I wouldn’t trade my thin happy self for NOTHING. I even wrote a book to try to help others with the weight loss struggle entitled “How I Mastered The Mind Game Of Weight Loss” and it’s online at http://www.publishersgraphicsbookstore.com by Nedra Ward. Thanks again Thomas, you are lengthening lives and making people lose that weight and get happy!!!;)

  25. Great read! I like to read articles about Japan to make me get motivated to lose weight (although I’m not overweight at all). My legs were certainly going to fall off after 2 weeks of constant walking (to fit all the places my friends and I wanted to go in that time frame) but I miss the walking, especially around the train stations with food and shopping areas…and those (French-looking) pastries..mont blancs, crepe cakes as well as traditional Japanese sweets (mitarashi dango, warabi mochi, matcha ice cream and parfaits) were too tempting. My friends and I had Mister Donut almost every other day but I think I stayed the same weight despite the walking because of the sweet binge. Hahaha. Well, it was definitely worth it. Wish I could go back soon but school and $$ is preventing me.

    • Oh man, those French-style bakeries were so good. Honestly the constant walking was the only reason I didn’t get huge over there; I ate so much. It was awesome though. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t look at my bank account and seriously think about just hopping a plane and going back. It’d destroy my account for sure… but I love it there 🙂

    • Edit: didn’t see that link before for some reason. Wow, that’s crazy! I didn’t hear anything about that when I was in Japan, but it certainly seems like they don’t need a law like that. Here in America, however…

  26. Excellent post. It’s not only in Japan but Taiwan has thinner people despite having so many good things to eat! When I lived there, I was my lightest since college. I was only exercising twice week, though it was intense. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted.

    One difference must be the way the food is prepared. Here when we eat out, we know it’s going to be super salty, huge portions, and packed with a ton of calories. In Taiwan, I ate out all the time cause I had no kitchen, but I didn’t gain weight. I also walked a lot in addition to taking public transportation.

    So I think the way food is prepared has something to do with it as well.

    Great post!

    • I think that’s one of the biggest parts of it! For one, all the traditional food in Asia isn’t full of HFCS and it isn’t cooked in crappy vegetable oils. It’s just super-nutritious and usually pretty low-carb.

      Also, walking everywhere is a workout in itself. It might not feel like it, but it seems that doing a lot of low-intensity, slow movement is actually essential for good health. The high-intensity stuff is the other side of the coin. If you agree with the Primal way of thinking, the idea is that our ancestors spent a lot of time moving slowly, and then had bursts of high-intensity movement (going in for the kill). So we should be adapted for that kind of lifestyle.

  27. Really great blog post Thomas. I really love my juicer a lot and it’s probably one of the best things I could buy ever. The riding the bicycle is so crucial I feel. I started to ride mine more and love it. Especially, since I hate driving it’s a huge plus for me.

    • That’s the biggest plus for me – I just really don’t like driving. The only reason I’ll ever opt to drive in a group is if I really feel like listening to my own music. Otherwise I’m cool to let someone else waste their gas, and sadly (or happily?) they’re always willing to do it.

      • hey, im from india and trust me i’am really upset from my body type i’am slim and my complexion is also not fair thats whay not a single guy propose’s me…i’am in high school so we have a fixed uniform and in that uniform i dont looks good at all please help me please
        …plzz help me plzzz

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