Japanese Plastic Surgery

Japanese Plastic Surgery


When we think of Asian plastic surgery, we often think of the major cosmetic surgery hubs in Korea and China. Both countries are famed for their booming beauty industries and ​​medical aesthetics markets, as well as for the trends they originate that rapidly become in-demand with patients worldwide.

While we may see Japanese plastic surgery in the public eye less often, the country’s influences on Asian beauty standards, popular procedures and surgical techniques are significant. Expect to see Japanese plastic surgery take on even greater influence as Tokyo seeks to establish itself as a major player on the global plastic surgery stage.

Is Plastic Surgery Common in Japan?

Plastic surgery has long been a quiet, yet widely accepted, practice in Japan. Many patients chose to keep their procedures private out of respect for the country’s traditional values and fear of negative social attitudes towards modifying the body. Although societal perspectives on plastic surgery are changing, plastic surgery has yet to receive the level of acceptance in Japan that it has in China or Korea.

The remaining stigma has not discouraged thousands of Japanese patients from seeking aesthetic enhancements each year. According to the ISAPS International Survey on Aesthetic/Cosmetic Procedures performed in 2020, Japan ranked fourth for most procedures performed in the world, after the USA, Brazil and Germany. The survey reports that:

  • 222,642 surgical procedures were performed in Japan in 2020 (2.2% of the world’s total)
  • 835,556 nonsurgical procedures were performed in Japan in 2020 (5.8% of the world’s total)
  • 1,058,198 aesthetic procedures were performed overall in Japan in 2020 (4.3% of the world’s total)

Japan also ranked fourth for estimated number of plastic surgeons in the country, coming in at 2,707 behind the USA (7,000), Brazil (5,843) and China (3,000).

What Is the History of Plastic Surgery in Japan?

Modern plastic surgery gained a strong foothold in Japan in the 1950s. Methods of reconstructive plastic surgery used to treat World War II battlefield injuries were adapted for elective cosmetic surgery. This eventually led to the first annual meeting of the Japan Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in 1958.

During this period, technologies and techniques were primarily brought to Japan from Western countries, where cosmetic and reconstructive plastic surgery was already a well-established specialty. Many Japanese doctors studied in Western countries before returning to Japan to practice.

Plastic and reconstructive surgery became an official specialty in Japan in 1975. This era saw some young Japanese surgeons succeeding overseas, while others at home developed innovations in microsurgery, craniofacial surgery and tissue expansion.

For one of Japan’s most interesting contributions to cosmetic surgery, we must travel back more than a century. In 1896, the Japanese surgeon Mikamo became the first to publish on the double-eyelid operation (Asian blepharoplasty), detailing the creation of an upper eyelid crease in patients with a single eyelid or monolid. Today, this is one of the ​​most popular procedures in Asian aesthetic surgery.

Why Do People Have Japanese Plastic Surgery?

Patients in every country in the world have a variety of reasons for undergoing cosmetic surgery. 

In Japan, as elsewhere, aesthetic enhancement is one of the primary motivations. A 2021 study of the attitudes toward aesthetic procedures in five East Asian countries/regions found that “self-investment” and “self-confidence” were two of the most common motivators cited by Japanese patients.

A variety of external factors also proved to have a strong influence over Japanese patients. A significant number of participants in the study said they underwent plastic surgery due to “peer effect” or because it was “suggested by partner/family member/friends”. Others said they wanted to emulate a favourite celebrity or felt improving their appearance was important for career advancement.

Overall, Japanese patients were significantly more likely to be motivated by external factors than patients in the four other countries/regions included in the study (China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan).

How Have Attitudes Towards Plastic Surgery Changed in Japan?

Elective cosmetic surgery was formerly a shadowy industry in Japan. Traditional wisdom once held that altering the features inherited from one’s family was disrespectful or vain. Patients valued discretion to avoid the shame and stigma that could come with surgically altering their appearance.

Today, attitudes towards cosmetic surgery are noticeably more liberal. This has been attributed to a variety of factors, including greater emphasis on self-expression, extreme competition in the job market and the proliferation of noninvasive techniques that are more convenient, affordable and temporary.

What Are the Most Popular Japanese Plastic Surgery Procedures?

By far, the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in Japan is eyelid surgery. Of the 222,642 surgical procedures performed in Japan in 2020 (according to ISAPS data), 143,921 were eyelid surgeries. That’s over half (64.6%, to be exact) of the total number of surgical procedures for the year!

Facelift was the second most popular surgical procedure, coming in at 20,652 operations in 2020. Facial fat grafting (18,121), rhinoplasty (15,329) and liposuction (8,467) completed the top five. Overall, the popularity of facial plastic surgery in Japan far exceeds that of breast and body surgeries.

Where nonsurgical procedures are concerned, the 2020 ISAPS survey found that hair removal was the most popular choice for Japanese patients. It was followed in the top five by treatments to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, nonsurgical fat reduction treatments and photorejuvenation. 

Discover Japanese Plastic Surgery in Sydney

As interest in Japanese plastic surgery grows around the world, more and more patients in Australia seek surgeons who understand the techniques and sensibilities that make the Japanese approach distinctive. Our specialist plastic surgeons founded Asian Plastic Surgery to serve the needs of this unique and discerning community.

To request a consultation for Japanese plastic surgery in Sydney, contact us on (02) 5104 9703 or fill out our enquiry form today. Our team aim to provide the very highest standard of care to Asian patients in Sydney and throughout Australia.

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