Picture a scenario where children have the ability to enter a medical facility and leave with double eyelids or a fresh nose, all thanks to parental consent and a surgical procedure.

In Japan, this isn’t science fiction, it’s reality. With parental consent, plastic surgery is legal for anyone under 18.

The emergence of this topic has ignited intense discussions and prompted intricate inquiries regarding societal ideals of beauty, individual autonomy, the empowerment of youth, the moral implications of modifying young bodies, and a distorted notion of attractiveness.

The realm of plastic surgery in Japan is undeniably captivating, but it becomes equally disconcerting when minors become part of it.

Hence, one must ponder whether the scalpel should serve as a means for adolescents to attain beauty or if it poses a threat to both society and individuals.

Plastic Surgery in Japan and Its Beauty Standards

Japan’s relationship with plastic surgery is unique and multifaceted — it’s a fascinating dance between tradition and modernity; acceptance and scrutiny.

While traditionally valuing natural beauty, the country boasts the second-highest rate of cosmetic procedures in the world, according to the 2020 Global Aesthetic Surgery Report by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS).

children plastic surgery in japan

Credit: @vicenews/TikTok

This seemingly contradictory trend hinges on several factors: harmony and refinement of facial features, the popularity of non-invasive options, media and idol influence (particularly from J-pop and K-pop culture), and evolving societal views on plastic surgery.

In August 2022, a survey by Statista revealed that approximately 4.3% of Japanese women between the ages of 20 and 29 had undergone cosmetic surgeries within a year.

Interestingly, the survey also found that over 94% of women of all age groups had never undergone any cosmetic surgeries in the past.

Why Do Children Get Plastic Surgery in Japan?


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Japan stands out as a unique case when it comes to teenagers undergoing plastic surgery, a sight that may raise eyebrows in other parts of the world.

In this beauty-conscious nation, minors are legally allowed to give consent for such procedures, and the motivations behind their decisions are complex.

Cultural Beauty Ideals

children plastic surgery in japan

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Japan places great importance on conformity and particular beauty standards which greatly influence societal norms.

Large eyes, a well-defined nose, and a youthful look are highly prized attributes that are commonly associated with beauty and achievement.

Young individuals, especially those who are subjected to bullying or peer pressure, may feel pressured to adhere to these ideals, potentially prompting them or their parents to contemplate cosmetic surgery as a remedy.

Parental Influence and Internalised Self-Image

children plastic surgery in japan

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Parents, motivated by cultural norms and a wish for their children’s well-being, may endorse or even provide financial assistance for their children’s interest in plastic surgery, as they believe it can enhance their child’s self-assurance and future opportunities.

This inclination can be intensified by the competitive environment of Japanese society, where physical appearance is frequently regarded as a factor influencing academic and social achievements.

Apart from external influences, certain children may internalise societal beauty standards, resulting in self-awareness and discontentment with their own looks.

In such instances, plastic surgery may be perceived as a means to attain their desired image and enhance their self-confidence.

Addressing Specific Concerns

Some children may opt for surgery due to valid reasons, disregarding societal beauty standards.

Birth defects, scarring, or medical conditions that affect facial features can lead to emotional distress and impact a child’s self-confidence.

Plastic surgery offers a solution to address these specific concerns, potentially enhancing a child’s overall well-being.

Marketing and Accessibility

The widespread availability and marketing of cosmetic procedures, even for minors, can further contribute to the normalisation of plastic surgery.

Clinics often target younger audiences, promoting procedures as solutions to insecurities and emphasising their subtle nature.

What Are Experts Saying?

Case Study #1

In 2022, news arose that a Japanese mum had convinced her 9-year-old daughter to undergo double eyelid surgery to look “beautiful”.

The topic immediately went viral and sparked a slew of online backlash that targeted the mother.

During a YouTube interview, the mother asserted that double eyelids are essential for girls as they align with beauty norms. Critics online condemned the mother’s actions as “child abuse” and urged her to refrain from imposing her insecurities on her child.

Despite criticism, the mother defended her decision and expressed intentions for her daughter to undergo additional procedures in the future.

Dr Gary Linkov, who reacted to VICE’s YouTube video on this case mentioned that plastic surgery for minors in Japan was “problematic on so many different levels” and “hard to believe”.

“I think one of the main reasons why this feels really uncomfortable to me is that I don’t think kids can understand the downsides, the risks associated with these surgeries.

I mean, it’s even hard for adults to understand some of these risks and it’s impossible for a nine year old to wrap their minds around different complications that can occur as a result of surgery. That’s one of the many reasons why this should not be allowed,” shared Dr Gary.

Case Study #2

children plastic surgery in japan

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Toru Aso, a cosmetic surgeon based in Tokyo, told VICE in 2022 that he observed a significant rise in the number of underage patients seeking treatment at his clinic in recent years.

With over two decades of experience, Toru primarily attended to women in their 20s and 30s. He revealed that the frequency of underage clients has escalated from one per month a decade ago to one daily at present.

Among the procedures requested by Toru’s patients, eyelid surgery emerges as the most sought-after, mirroring a national trend in Japan. In 2020, blepharoplasty accounted for over 64% of all surgical interventions in the country.

plastic surgery for minors in japan

Credit: VICE Asia/YouTube

While eyelid surgery is relatively safer compared to more invasive procedures like the Brazilian Butt Lift or liposuction, it still carries potential risks such as visual impairment or damage to surrounding eye muscles.

Although minors can undergo plastic surgery with parental consent in Japan, Toru cautioned against the potential misuse of this regulation, noting instances where parents impose their beauty ideals on their children.

To ensure genuine consent, Toru conducts separate consultations with minors, as some parents have attempted to coerce their children into undergoing cosmetic procedures against their will.

Case Study #3

plastic surgery for minors in japan

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Professor Tomohiro Suzuki, specialising in child psychology and body image at Tokyo Future University, recognises that plastic surgery can positively impact individuals’ self-esteem by enhancing their appearance.

However, he expressed to VICE that when plastic surgery procedures are performed on minors who are in the midst of physical and psychological development, there’s a risk of future regret.

Many young individuals may not have fully defined their ideal appearance as they are still growing, leading some to undergo multiple surgeries in pursuit of perfection.

Professor Tomohiro warns of the potential trap wherein individuals become ensnared in a cycle of continual plastic surgery, unable to break free from the pursuit of an elusive ideal image.

Case Study #4

children plastic surgery in japan

Credit: @nonoka199148/Instagram

The emergence of social media influencers has also reshaped beauty standards which doesn’t really come as a surprise.

Nonoka Sakurai, formerly known as Rie, found fame as a plastic surgery influencer after undergoing multiple procedures, starting with a nose job at 18.

Despite feeling more confident after surgeries totalling 25 million yen, Nonoka faces challenges in maintaining her appearance due to evolving trends and comments from both online users and bar customers.

children plastic surgery in japan

Credit: @vicenews/TikTok

Nonoka admits that the constant pressure to keep up with trends can be physically exhausting and emotionally draining, with surgeries often resulting in painful recoveries.

Nevertheless, she remains committed to altering her appearance until she feels validated as the most beautiful person in the world.

Plastic Surgery for Minors in Japan: Ethical Tightrope or Personal Choice?

plastic surgery for minors in japan

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Based on VICE‘s research, a Japanese clinic discovered in 2021 that 90% of teenagers surveyed expressed a desire for plastic surgery to alleviate their insecurities, marking a significant rise from approximately 70% reported just two years earlier.

Similar trends have been observed among young people globally. In the United States, over 220,000 cosmetic procedures are conducted annually on individuals aged 13 to 19.

Critics contend that due to their limited understanding of the long-term risks and complications associated with surgery, young minds lack the maturity to make informed decisions.

This makes obtaining true informed consent a challenging task, fueling the ongoing debate surrounding the ethics of child plastic surgery in Japan.

The surge in these figures has raised concerns among medical professionals and government authorities. In 2021, British legislators prohibited lip filler procedures, a common “tweakment” among youth, for individuals under 18 to safeguard minors.


#stitch with @viceworldnews this is so whack – i cannot believe this shit is still going on. #plasticsurgery #asianbeautystandards #looks #superficial #eyelidsurgery #monolid #asianbeauty #asianbeautystandards

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Moreover, there is a growing shift in public sentiment towards opposing this practice, as people become more aware of the potential psychological consequences and ethical issues related to informed consent.

In addition to the long-term effects on a child’s development, it can also adversely affect their self-esteem and body image.

Where Should We Draw the Line?

So, at the heart of this controversy, when does it become “too much”?

While legal, the issue of plastic surgery for minors in Japan is far from settled. Growing opposition reflects concerns about ethical implications and potential harms.

However, a more nuanced understanding acknowledges cultural values, individual choice, and potential benefits in specific situations.

At the end of the day, it prompts critical reflection on the true definition of beauty and its place in our evolving world. How far would you go to pursue your ideal version of beauty?

Featured image credit: Doctor Gary Linkov/YouTube, VICE Asia/YouTube