306.6 Global impact and changing local reality: Understanding of overweight and obesity in Japan

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 1:23 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Distributed Paper
Chika SHINOHARA , Sociology, Momoyama Gakuin University, Osaka, Japan
The public consciousness of overweight and obesity has emerged and grown in Japan. The national health insurance system has started annual obesity check-ups for adult citizens. Yet, Japan’s obesity rate, for example, is not necessarily high in East Asia and among the post-industrial societies. How have overweight and obesity become social issues in Japan? How do Japanese cultural values and social structures shape their reality and understanding of fatness and related health problems? Drawing on an original data set of news reports, this paper examines how national context shapes the definition of obesity and understanding of this health issue in Japan. Article counts show that obesity is the second, after smoking, frequently introduced health topics in national newspapers. Reporting on obesity often relates changing lifestyles and dieting habits to “Euro-Americanization,” typically in a negative way. Despite that, analyses show that information on obesity, healthy dieting, and weight loss industry flows from the United States, Europe, and international organizations into the Japanese media. I interpret these results based on the extant literature on obesity and health in globalization, legal consciousness, and research on social stratifications.