For some reason, the Japanese internet just loves polling its readers about a variety of (often mundane) topics in the form of surveys, polls, and other data collection methods. One of the biggest themes revolves around international perceptions of Japan, particularly in the realms of dating and relationships, as our site has featured multiple times in the past.
According to the latest poll conducted in a joint effort between Omron Healthcare Co., Ltd. and Wacoal (a lingerie company based in Kyoto) for an ongoing women empowerment project, 98% of foreign men perceive Japanese women to be kawaii (“cute”). But can you guess the number one thing that the majority of those men find to be unattractive about Japanese women, and what researchers are planning to do about it?
Since Japan is going to be increasingly put in the spotlight from now through the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the two aforementioned companies have recently begun investigating the perceptions of Japanese women by foreigners. I was initially skeptical about how the results of the following survey would benefit the healthcare or lingerie industries, let alone humanity, but there’s an actual point to all this, I promise (I’ll explain later).
Between October 23-31, 2014, researchers surveyed approximately 50 foreign men who had been living in Japan for at least a year regarding what they think about Japanese women (the relatively small sample size bothers me a little, but hey, what can you do…). When asked if they thought that Japanese were kawaii, a whopping 98% replied “yes.” Out of those men, when asked to name the most kawaii feature about Japanese women, 82% replied “their faces/makeup,” 78% replied “their general attitudes,” 76% replied “their hairstyles,” and 72% replied “their figures.” Rounding off the bottom of the list at only 28% was “their way of walking.”
▼“Question 2: What in particular do you think is kawaii (cute) about Japanese women?”
For the next question, the men were asked to think about the flip side of things–what they thought was “not so kawaii” about Japanese women.
As shown in the chart below, the top three spots went to “their way of walking” (64%), “their way of talking” (44%), and “their posture” (42%). “Their voices” and “their mannerisms” were tied for fourth place (40%).
▼“Question 3: What do you think is unattractive about Japanese women?”
You might be scratching your head about why so many foreign men listed “their way of walking” as the most unattractive feature of Japanese women. However, if you’ve spent any time in Japan, you may have noticed that many Japanese women have a very distinctive “pigeon-toed” way of walking, with their toes pointed inward. It’s a very common sight, and supposedly the main reason why a large number of women walk this way is simply because they think it looks cute.
▼Exhibit A: Japanese girls in a classic pigeon-toed stance. Does this look pose look familiar to anyone who’s spent time in Japan?
When asked to further elaborate on why Japanese women’s manner of walking was unattractive, 62% of the men responded that the pigeon-toed gait looks especially unattractive “when the women are wearing high heels” (tied for second place: “when they’re carrying luggage” and “not in any particular situation” [both at 20%]). Furthermore, 90% of those who provided the heels response felt that Japanese women walk extremely awkwardly, clumsily, or look like they’re lacking in confidence when they walk in heels.
▼“Question 4: What in particular do you find unattractive about the way that Japanese women walk?”
Of course, after seeing the large number of responses related to high heels, the researchers had to delve even deeper by asking how the men feel when they find themselves walking next to a Japanese woman wearing high heels.
36% of the respondents said that “they feel nothing in particular,” 24% admitted that “they would rather not walk next to her,” 18% said they feel “embarrassed,” 12% answered “I’m indecisive,” and 10% said “other.” Taken as a whole, these results suggest that the majority of men harbor negative feelings about walking next to an awkwardly walking Japanese woman who’s wearing heels.
▼“Question 8: How do you feel when you’re walking next to a Japanese women who’s walking awkwardly in high heels?”
So what’s the takeaway of all this? While the results may not be entirely earth-shattering, the researchers have focused in on the vast majority of responses related to negative perceptions of the way that many Japanese women walk. They have even dubbed this style of walking the “Mottainai (‘wasteful, unfortunate’) Walk,” and are planning to encourage women to walk in a less awkward fashion that is also healthier for their posture/bodies.
▼This diagram released by the study shows examples of the wrong way to walk. The picture on the far left demonstrates “duck style,” and the picture next to that shows “penguin style.”
On a final note, I personally don’t see why this survey needed to exclude the opinions of foreign women in the first place–the pigeon-toed way of walking of many Japanese women was just as visible to me when I lived in Japan as it was to my male friends. Hopefully the companies will create a new survey designed to investigate the views of foreign women about Japanese men to even things up!