Some Japanese are paying $55 for an hour-long smile lesson after their government lifted the mandatory mask mandates in March.
The development followed three years of government recommendations that people wear masks.
After the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, people in the country were advised to wear masks in order to protect themselves from the respiratory illness.
But since the recent lifting of the mask rules, many people have struggled to smile and feel the need to rehearse their facial expressions.
According to Reuters, Keiko Kawano, a smiling instructor, founded a company called Egaoiku – which means “Smile Education” in 2017.
Her services, however, increased more than four times in demand after the government of the country lifted its recommendation to wear masks.
Kawano’s customers include young people, companies seeking more approachable salespeople, and local governments looking to improve the well-being of their residents.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, wearing a mask was normal for many people in Japan who want to protect themselves from a cold or hay fever during the winter and spring seasons.
A poll in May also showed that only 8 percent of the population said they had stopped wearing masks altogether.
Himawari Yoshida, one of the students taking the class to prepare for the job market, said she needed to work on her smile.
“I hadn’t used my facial muscles much during COVID so it’s good exercise,” the 20-year-old said.
Kawano said she teaches the one-hour-long smile lessons because young people have become used to life with masks.
Kawano, who is a former radio host, trademarked the ‘Hollywood Style Smiling Technique’ and has also trained 23 other people on how to be smiling coaches.
Her coaching techniques are “crescent eyes, round cheeks and shaping the edges of the mouth to bare eight pearly whites in the upper row.”
“Culturally, a smile signifies that I’m not holding a gun and I’m not a threat to you,” she said.
“With a surge in inbound tourists, Japanese people need to communicate with foreigners with more than just their eyes. I think there’s a growing need for people to smile.”
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