After three years of pandemic, their faces hidden behind a mask, the Japanese are learning to smile again. How? By enrolling in "facial expression classes". One afternoon, in a classroom at an art institute in Tokyo, a dozen students face a small mirror, visibly focused on their lower faces. They stretch each side of their mouth upwards and unfold their widest smile. These students from the "Sokei Academy of Fine Art and Design" participate for the first time in the course of Keiko Kawano, self-proclaimed "smile coach". His method? The "Hollywood Style Smiling Technique", a technique patented in 2017 and which includes the "crescent eye", the "round cheek" and the "upper 8 teeth"... or how to shape the edges of the mouth to make eight pearly whites appear in the top row.
"A smiling face is synonymous with happiness, that's the concept," says Kawano, who even uses special facial detection software to give his students a smile score out of 100. According to her, demand for her training has more than quadrupled compared to 2022, especially since Japan lifted the ban on wearing masks last March. To pay for his services, a one-hour private lesson costs about 55 euros. Among his students is Himawari, 20. "I didn't use my facial muscles much during Covid, so it was a good workout for my face. I could become a little more aware of what it looks like when I'm in a situation that makes me smile." Objective of the method? Reconnect more easily. "You will meet more people, you will have more opportunities, so your life will be more fulfilling and you can become happier," says Keiko Kawano.