Smiling lessons are now available in Japan, three years after the government recommended that people wear medical masks.
After the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world in 2020, the authorities required people to wear masks to protect themselves from respiratory diseases.
According to the Asahi Shimbun, since the lifting of mandatory masks, many people have struggled to adjust to life without face coverings.
The newspaper says that some have forgotten how to smile, and have become more aware of the need to practice facial expressions.
The popularity of these sessions, organized by the Akabane Center for the Relief of the Elderly, seems to have increased with more people requesting individual lessons since the end of last year.
The number of applicants rose by 4.5 times after the media first reported in February 2023 that the government would drop its mask-wearing recommendation.
In May, Japan said face coverings should be an individual choice, and downgraded the severity of the virus.
“To teach a smile,” Keiko Kawano, a trainer at Egaoiku, told the newspaper that with the ability to remove the mask, “people had fewer opportunities to smile, and more and more people developed complexes about it.”
“Moving and relaxing the facial muscles is the key to a good smile,” she added.
As for how the lessons are conducted, participants are given a hand mirror to check their progress and smile, with some adjusting their facial expressions until they are happy with the result of their natural smile.
“Smiles are essential for maskless communication,” Yasuko Watari, one of the participants in one of the lessons, told the Mainichi Shimbun. I want to apply what I learned today in volunteer activities and other gatherings.”
Kawano said she wants people to take the time to smile more for the sake of their physical and mental health.