Japan and the Big Head Conundrum: Why Do People Want a Small Face?

  • Have you ever heard someone from Japan tell someone esle, particularly a foreigner, that their face was very small, often with a tone of jealousy and admiration? For those coming from Western countries, this might seem like a very strange and confusing comment that is difficult to discern. If you were told that your face was small, would you categorize the comment as an insult or as a compliment? In truth, is nothing more than a compliment deeply embedded in Japanese buaty standards. In Japan, a small, oval-shaped face with a V-line jaw is the epitome of beauty. Pretty much all young women, and sometimes even young men in Japan, desire to have small faces. This is known as kogao.

    The Golden Ratio: Hattou Shin

    According to the concept of hattou shin, ideally a person’s head should be one-eighth of their total height. The upper half of the body should be equivalent to the total length of three heads while the legs should be as long as four heads. This translates to a person having a small face as being something aesthetically beautiful.

    If one is not blessed with a small face and you desire to reduce the size of your face, the only truly effective way is through surgery to reduce the size of their jawline and cheekbones. Naturally, not everyone is comfortable with plastic surgery, and people in Japan tend to opt to use other methods, whether they work merely as a placebo, to make their heads smaller. This has given rise to numerous beauty products, some of which are borderline ridiculous.

    Among the plethora of products, services, and remedies, these are the most common ones people actually use:

    Facial Wraps

    There are many products like this, and they are essentially face wraps one can use to wrap and tighten their face. There are a few varieties of such products. Some wraps may only cover one’s jaw line while others cover up nearly one’s entire face. Some are so big and cover such a high percentage of one’s face that that they look more like glorified headgear.

    These products are not only targeted to women, and men will also be able to find some products that promise to reshape their heads.

    Face Slimming Massage

    Some aestheticians offer something called kogaokyousei (小顔矯正), which is essentially a massage that lifts up one’s face and make it smaller. People who are self-conscious about the size of their heads, their jawlines, and their cheekbones tends to go to this kind of aesthetician in hopes of minimizing the facial features they don’t like.

    Shokkaku Hairstyle

    Shokkaku hairstyle (literally antenna hairstyle in English) is where two long strands of hair frame the sides of the face. Jaapnese idols can be seen rocking this hairstyle often. The thicker the strands that frame your cheeks, the slimmer your face would look.

    The great thing about this hairstyle is that it actually looks very good, so its popularity can be attributed to something greater than the desire to fool people’s senses and make one’s face seem smaller.


    There are many popular poses in Japan that can be found all over Instagram, including the mushiba pozu or “cavity pose” that makes one’s face look smaller. Additionally, when people pose for a photo next to someone with a smaller face, it is not uncommon for those who perceive their heads to be be bigger to either step a few centimeters back or ask the person with the smaller face to be closer to the camera.


    While the effectiveness of products like the face wraps and services like the face massage are debatalbe (a vast majority will categorize them as waste of money while there are some who swear by them), their existance and popularity come to show just how important having a small face is when it comes to Japanese beauty standards.

    *Featured Image by half_warmed_fish on Instagram
    : half_warmed_fish/