Now you can put a price on a smile.
People in Japan who have become accustomed to wearing a face mask have turned to the help of a professional — to learn to smile again.
After the Japanese government lifted its recommendation to wear masks for COVID prevention in March, many residents seemingly realized they had forgotten how to execute the facial expression.
“People have not been raising their cheeks under a mask or trying to smile much,” said Keiko Kawano, who teaches smiling through her company Egaoiku — which translates to “Smile Education” — told the New York Times last month. “Now, they’re at a loss.”
Lessons to perfect a perfect grin come at a cost: around $55 for a one-on-one session to teach people how to fire up the old cheek muscles and deliver a dazzling Hollywood smile.
“I hadn’t used my facial muscles much during COVID,” Himawari Yoshida, a 20-year-old student of Kawano’s, explained to Reuters, adding that she’s taking the course at the recommendation of her school to prepare for the job market.
Kawano teaches the âHollywood Style Smiling Technique,” which teaches how to achieve âcrescent eyesâ and âround cheeks,â plus learning to shape the edges of the mouth to show eight upper teeth.
She said there has been a “four-fold increase” in demand for lessons post-COVID.
One of the exercises instructs students to hold up mirrors to their faces and stretch the sides of their mouths with their fingers to get used to the feeling.
âCulturally, a smile signifies that Iâm not holding a gun and Iâm not a threat to you,â she explained to Reuters, adding that an influx of international tourists could mean learning how to communicate again using facial expressions.
In May, public broadcaster NHK conducted a poll that said 55% of Japanese people are still wearing masks as often as they were when the government guidance was in place, with just 8% not wearing a mask anymore.
âI think thereâs a growing need for people to smile,” Kawano maintained.
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