(Daily Mail): Japanese people are paying experts to teach them how to smile again after spending three years hiding their faces behind masks amid the Covid pandemic.
Japan has only just declared an end to pandemic restrictions, removing remaining border controls last week and ending mask restrictions in March.
While many are still choosing to wear their surgical masks outside, others fear they have been wearing the mask for so long that they’ve forgotten how to smile.
Others worry that their smile now won’t come across as authentic, while others are simply anxious of showing the world the lower portion of their face again.
To help them beam again, many are turning to experts to rediscover their cheerful expressions.
Speaking to the Japan Times, ‘smile trainer’ Miho Kitano said: ‘I’ve heard from people who say that even if they’re able to remove their masks, they don’t want to show the bottom half of their faces, or that they don’t know how to smile anymore.
‘Some say that they see more wrinkles around their eyes after using them more to smile, or they feel like their face is drooping because they haven’t been using it as much as before.’
Kitano said her company Smile Facial Muscle Association has seen business skyrocket with people wanting to rediscover their pre-pandemic cheer.
The ‘smile expert’ gives her students exercises to help them with their smiles. Her pupils are given straws to bite down on with the aim that it elevates their cheek muscles to help show their teeth.
‘I meet many people who say they aren’t good at smiling, but it’s all about the muscles, and we have to use and train them in order to get good at it,’ she told the Japanese publication.
‘Just as you might exercise your arms, exercising your expressive muscles is so important.’
The Japanese population was very adherent to mask policy during the pandemic. Rates of infections and death were much lower in the country than in Western nations.
Face coverings are now optional in Japan following the end of official rules earlier this year.