Big in Japan

A few thoughts after clothes-shopping with my 11 1/2 year-old daughter, who weighs about 80 pounds:

When I first arrived in Japan, I was about 25 pounds lighter than I am now. Even then, I couldn’t find any clothes that fit. I wore size 10. I still wear U.S. size 10, so obviously clothing manufacturers are accomodating their sizes to a growing (in girth, I mean) population. I know that there are movements protesting the discrimination of fat people, and politicians like Sarah Palin who pooh pooh the fight against obesity, and occasionally Vogue features plus-size models, at least in the editorial pages. 

Here in Japan, which I’ve heard has the highest rate of anorexia in the world, women often go on diets as soon as they find out they are pregnant because they don’t want to get fat. The smallest size skirt, which might have fit around my ankles when I was at my thinnest (and I was thin) was size S. Now, thanks to McDonald’s and the popularity of video games and the Internet, young people are getting larger. Manufacturers have started making  clothing in larger sizes, but the smallest size is still S. Then comes M, L, XL, 3L, 4L.

At the clothing store I went to today with my daughter, the large sized clothes are at the front of the store under a big banner declaring “Big Sizes!” Although those are the clothes that would fit me, I was embarrassed to be seen near them. I bought my petite, small-for-her-age daughter a women’s medium-sized knit top and a pair of boots for myself, and then we went home.

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5 thoughts on “Big in Japan

  1. how horrible!

    seeing the popularity of japanese culture growing in america over the course of my children’s lifetime, i have watched a particularly disturbing trend of infantilization of women. of course, it’s easy for me to criticize from here, but i have also heard of the extreme inequity of women in japan, and between the 2, i feel like anorexity is just an inward reaction to that culture view of women. if they have so little control in their lives, it makes perfect sense they would warp their body view so much.

  2. You may be right, Cathy. Also, appearance is REALLY important in Japan, whereas in the West people say that it’s what’s inside that matters.

  3. not necessarily…we have plenty of body image issues here, too, leading to disturbing trends in extreme plastic surgery. but i hope we’re beginning to see a turn around with the exposure of this particular underbelly of our culture hitting mainstream news.

  4. In India many shop sellers (clothing, bangles, shoes, whatever) would catch a glimpse of foreign women and would start yelling out “BIG SIZE BIG SIZE!!” to entice us into their store… but it normally had the opposite effect!

    I’m guessing putting the (clearly marked) big sizes out front was with the idea of pulling in customers… but I wonder how many actually stop?

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