Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Japan, Seeking Trim Waists, Measures Millions

This article, from The New York Times (you can read the entire article by clicking here) gives me a big grin.

I can’t imagine American lining up because the government says we will have our waists measured, and be expected to meet a certain standard or lose weight and be penalized. Can you imagine Kuwaitis allowing the government to tell them how big their waists can be?

Japan is one of the most law-abiding nations on earth – I guess you have to be, when you have so many people occupying so little space. When you think of the Japanese, you think of politeness, courtesy. Outbreaks of rage are an anomoly.

And the government is right – obesity causes more and more expense down the road because it exacerbates other conditions. But someone’s weight is a very personal thing!

Published: June 13, 2008

A poster at a public health clinic in Japan reads, “Goodbye, metabo,” a word associated with being overweight. The Japanese government is mounting an ambitious weight-loss campaign.

Summoned by the city of Amagasaki one recent morning, Minoru Nogiri, 45, a flower shop owner, found himself lining up to have his waistline measured. With no visible paunch, he seemed to run little risk of being classified as overweight, or metabo, the preferred word in Japan these days.

But because the new state-prescribed limit for male waistlines is a strict 33.5 inches, he had anxiously measured himself at home a couple of days earlier. “I’m on the border,” he said.

Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups. That represents more than 56 million waistlines, or about 44 percent of the entire population.

Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women, which are identical to thresholds established in 2005 for Japan by the International Diabetes Federation as an easy guideline for identifying health risks — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months.

To reach its goals of shrinking the overweight population by 10 percent over the next four years and 25 percent over the next seven years, the government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. The country’s Ministry of Health argues that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check.

The ministry also says that curbing widening waistlines will rein in a rapidly aging society’s ballooning health care costs, one of the most serious and politically delicate problems facing Japan today. Most Japanese are covered under public health care or through their work. Anger over a plan that would make those 75 and older pay more for health care brought a parliamentary censure motion Wednesday against Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, the first against a prime minister in the country’s postwar history.

June 13, 2008 - Posted by | Community, Cross Cultural, ExPat Life, Family Issues, Health Issues, Kuwait, Law and Order, Living Conditions, News, Relationships, Social Issues |


  1. Guess we’d both be in trouble!

    Comment by momcat | June 14, 2008 | Reply

  2. so it will become the nation of the skinny people! I have always thought they are really a homogeneous society and everything should match and meet certain standards!

    If that was in Kuwait or the US I can assure you health food companies will take advantage heheheheh

    Comment by Ansam | June 14, 2008 | Reply

  3. LOL. Momcat. I am looking forward to the day when walking will again be a part of my daily life. 🙂

    Ansam – who would even dare to try this approach in the US? or in Kuwait?

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 14, 2008 | Reply

  4. Yeah that article cracked me up as well. Around here people would find wasta to fudge their numbers. Imagine a roly-poly man whose stats say 12 inch waist…

    Comment by G.E&B | June 15, 2008 | Reply

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  6. GE&B – You totally cracked me up! I literally LOL’d when I read your comment.

    Comment by intlxpatr | June 26, 2008 | Reply

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