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Japanese people tend to be considered “short” people compared to the rest of the world, but this is actually a stereotype that is no longer valid today. However, due to their historically shorter stature, there are still average heights that you may surpass. So, what is height is considered tall in Japan?
If you are above the height of 6 ft 2 inches (190 cm) for a male and 5 ft 7 inches (175 cm) for a female, then you will be considered exceptionally tall in Japan as you surpass their average height of 5 ft 10 inches (171.2 cm) for a male and 5 ft 2 inches (158.8 cm) for a female by a large margin.
The world perception of the height of Asian people, in general, is that they are shorter than other populations, but this is more perception than reality. In fact, the average height of Japanese people has changed substantially in a relatively short time. What is the history behind the Japanese people’s height, and why has it changed so much over the years? What are the difficulties of being tall in Japan? We go through these questions and others in this article.
What Height Is Considered Tall In Japan?
Japan has long been considered worldwide as a “short” population, but this is actually not the case. Japan’s population is on average a good height, and they are actually on par now with most other countries in the world in terms of average height.
The average height for a man in Japan is 5 ft 7.4 inches (171.2 cm) which is not that short and is similar to the average male’s height in America which is 5 ft 10.2 inches (178.2 cm).
The average height for a woman in Japan is 5 ft 2.6 inches (158.8 cm) which is also similar to the average female’s height in the U.S, which is 5 ft 4.6 inches (164.1 cm).
So, as you can see, the average height of Japanese people can not really be considered as short in comparison to the rest of the world. But these are only the averages; the people can be shorter or even taller than these averages.
For example, in the 1600s, there was a man named Akashi Shiganosuke who was a sumo wrestler and was formally recognized as the first yokozuna. He was described as being of gigantic size as he stood at 8 ft 6 inches (258 cm) tall. Of course, the dramatic height of Akashi is obviously more the exception than the rule, and people of his stature in Japan are not common.
However, there are no such giants living in Japan today, so if you are visiting Japan and you are taller than these average heights, then you may be considered tall in the country, but if you are over the height of 6 ft 2 inches (190 cm) for a male and 5 ft 7 inches (175 cm) for a female, then you will most likely be considered exceptionally tall in Japan.
The History Of Peoples Height In Japan
Japanese people were considered to be quite short in the history books and even up to a few decades ago, but this is no longer the case in our modern world.
After the Second World War, the rapid westernization of the traditional Asian countries such as Japan brought about some major changes, not only to their society but to their people as well, including their stature. (See also our article about height in the Philippines.)
The changes that the Japanese people have experienced in their diets and lifestyle due to the westernization of their country has lead to Japanese people showing one of the fastest collective growth spurts to have ever been recorded in modern societies history.
In the past 30 years, the average height of the Japanese male has increased by nearly 4 inches, with the average Japanese female’s height increasing by 2.7 inches.
Public health experts are citing several reasons as to why this huge change is happening in the stature of an entire nation. But the main fundamental change is cited as being the change in the Japanese diet that is quite visible in their everyday lives.
For example, Japanese people are now turning away from their traditional lunches of rice balls wrapped up in seaweed and are instead lining up outside places like KFC and McDonald’s, which have now ranked as their number one and two most popular restaurants in the country.
The biggest change in the diet of Japanese people has been the decline of grains, particularly rice, and the sharp increase of high caloric animal foods being eaten, with meat and dairy consumption going up at a surprising rate.
The combination of a higher calorie diet and a trend towards more office-type employment rather than subsistence farming has contributed to the general increase in the average height of the population.
These changes to the Japanese diet and lifestyle are not the only contributing factors to people being taller and bigger over the years. According to the Japanese Health Ministry, another factor could be considered a contributing factor to this height change.
This surprising factor is that many Japanese people nowadays commonly sit and work in western-style chairs both at home and at work, instead of sitting the traditional way of kneeling on a rice-straw mat as the Japanese did for centuries.
According to the Japanese Health Ministry, this has stopped the constant pressure on the knees of young Japanese children, which is leading to the children growing up to be taller than children in previous generations.
But whatever the reason for this rapid growth spurt of the Japanese population, you can be sure that they will most likely keep growing past their average heights today. So, you may be considered tall in Japan now, but in the future, it may go a different way.
The Difficulties Of Being Tall In Japan
If you are tall and you want to go and visit Japan, then there may be some obstacles that you will face due to your height, as Japan does not really cater to exceptionally tall people.
Some challenges that you may face include finding a bed that you can fit in. The beds in hotels and other accommodation may be too short for you; in this case, you may opt for sleeping on a futon as they generally have extra futons that you can put together so you can fit comfortably on them while you sleep.
Another difficulty for tall people in Japan is the height of the doorways. Japanese homes are not generally built with high doorways as they are not really needed, but if you are taller than the average height in the country, then you will probably need to duck through every doorway you go through, which can be a pain on your back or neck.
Something else to consider is when you go to restaurants in Japan, the space under the tables tends to be quite small, so if you have long legs, then you may struggle sitting in a restaurant.
If you are exceptionally tall and you want to go to Japan, then you may have to put up with some Japanese people staring at you as you will be an unusual sight to them. But you will find that you get used to this quite quickly.
Apart from these few things, you should have no issues with your visit to Japan if you are considered tall. In fact, your height may even give you an advantage with making some new friends as the people will find you fascinating.
Japanese people are not as short as they once were; this means that you might just fit in height-wise when you go and visit Japan. You might only be considered exceptionally tall if you are taller than 6 ft, and you may then have some trouble with space in certain aspects in Japan, but you will most certainly still enjoy your visit!