Have you ever found yourself pondering the average height of individuals in Japan? What defines the typical height of Japanese people, and is it on the rise or decline? Surprisingly, discussions surrounding this topic are few and far between, but height continues to be a significant concern for many individuals around the world. Some aspire to be taller, while others grapple with the notion of being excessively tall.
In the context of Japan, height concerns hold a genuine place in society. While Japanese individuals typically fall shorter in stature compared to their Western counterparts and those hailing from Central Asian countries such as Korea and China, it’s fascinating to note that the average height of the Japanese population has experienced remarkable changes over the course of the last century.
Historical Perspective: Were Japanese People Short?
Indeed, in the annals of history, Japanese people were renowned for their comparatively diminutive stature. During an earlier era, the average height for Japanese males measured at approximately 5 feet 2 inches (160.3 centimeters), while their female counterparts averaged around 4 feet 9 inches (148.9 centimeters) in height.
But what factors contributed to this characteristic?
Genetics and the HMGA2 Gene
One compelling explanation can be traced to genetics. East Asians, including the Japanese, exhibit a unique genetic trait associated with shorter stature, known as the high-mobility group AT-hook 2 (HMGA2) gene . This genetic predisposition has played a pivotal role in shaping the physical attributes of the Japanese people.
Post-World War II Transformations
Additionally, the aftermath of World War II brought about transformative changes in Japanese society, both physically and mentally. This period marked a turning point, leading to significant alterations in lifestyle, nutrition, and overall well-being. As a result, the historical depiction of Japanese people as “short” persisted for well over a century.
Contemporary Japanese Heights
So, how about the average height in Japan and the world today?
Japanese height increased more than other countries, except South Korea. They acquired nearly 6 inches (15 centimeters) between 1914 and 2014 . Particularly, the mean height of Japanese men is 5 feet 8 inches (172.06 centimeters). Meanwhile, the mean height of Japanese women is 5 feet 2 inches (158.5 centimeters) .
But compared to the average height of Americans, Australians, or British people, the Japanese are still short by about 1.1 – 1.5 inches (3 – 4 centimeters).
Factors Affecting Height in Japan
Although the Japanese are shorter than most Westerners on average, they have gotten taller in less than a century. What made this surge? Some of the factors are listed below.
Genes: If parents are tall, good chances are that their children might be as well. That is because genes play one of the most necessary roles in determining the height of a person. Many Japanese women married the U.S. troops who settled in Japan after World War II. That is why many “hybrid” kids were born, and that affected the height of Japanese people in the future.
Nutrition: Diet or nutrition is the next factor that is highly responsible for height. Having proper and suitable nutrition at an early age and during their growing years might affect the children’s growth, including physical and mental health.
The “Milk Plan”: The Japanese government started a campaign called the “Milk Plan.” Milk was added to the meals in school between the 1950s and 1960s. The most important aim of this plan was to enhance the health of the people after the war. Until now, Japanese students drink milk as well as use other kinds of dairy products. The consumption of milk is less than in America and Europe though. In addition to milk, the Japanese started adding pork and beef to every diet to increase protein intake, which is necessary for muscle and bone growth.
Traditional Diet: Another interesting thing about the Japanese diet is that they often consume fish and natto. While natto is a traditional and nutritious food for enhancing bone health and immunity, fish has a rich source of nutrients needed for height growth. The traditional Japanese breakfast with rice, seaweed, soybean-paste soup, and pickled vegetables has been replaced by a westernized menu with toast, scrambled eggs, cereals, and tossed salads in some families. This is common since many hotels in Japan offer both Japanese and Western breakfasts.
- Eating Habits: Rapid westernization has remarkably changed Japanese eating habits. Instead of eating the traditional lunch of rice balls, many people queue up in front of fast food stores or convenience stores. You also see delivery men carrying pizzas or hamburgers aside from rice and noodle dishes.
- Dietary Supplements: Japan’s dietary supplement industry has a short history since they were not widely recognized until the early 1990s. But now, Japan is the world’s third-largest dietary supplements market. Nearly 70% of the Japanese use vitamins and supplements in their daily life.
- Physical Activities: Getting a proper exercise routine coupled with good nutrition might help release growth hormones necessary for height increase. Radio Taiso is a radio exercise, which was launched by the Japanese government in 1982. Like the “Milk Plan,” this campaign was popular, especially among kids and the elderly. Besides, Japanese children are encouraged to engage in a variety of sports from an early age.
- Lifestyle: If Japanese people sat on rice-straw mats for centuries, they have now changed to Western styles, like sitting on chairs or lying on beds. Over time, this has stopped the constant pressure on the knees of Japanese kids, making them get taller and taller.
It is easy to recognize that the average height in Japan for both men and women has remarkably increased. Although this number is shorter than in Western countries, it has remarkably increased over the last century. And that depends on many different campaigns and changes in this country.
As Japan continues to evolve, it’s clear that factors such as genetics, nutrition, dietary habits, physical activity, and lifestyle choices all play crucial roles in determining the height of its population. The journey from a historically shorter stature to a taller average height highlights the dynamic nature of human physical characteristics and how they are shaped by various influences. Height, indeed, remains an intriguing topic of study, reflecting not only individual genetics but also broader societal and cultural changes.