In one of Keiko Kawano’s recent classes, more than a dozen Tokyo art school students held mirrors to their faces, stretching the sides of their mouths upward with their fingers: they were practicing how to smile.
It is not something most people would think to pay for but Kawano’s services as a smile instructor are seeing a surge in demand in Japan, where mask-wearing was near universal during the pandemic.
Himawari Yoshida, 20, one of the students taking the class as part of her school’s courses to prepare them for the job market, says she needed to work on her smile.
“I hadn’t used my facial muscles much during COVID so it’s good exercise,” she said.
Kawano’s company Egaoiku—literally “Smile Education”—has seen a more than four-fold jump in demand from last year, with customers ranging from companies seeking more approachable salespeople and local governments looking to improve their residents’ well-being.