Daily Vanity Logo

Imagine a world where kids can walk into a clinic and walk out with double eyelids or a brand new nose, courtesy of parental permission and a scalpel.

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

This has sparked heated debates and raised complex questions about beauty standards, personal choice, empowering young individuals, the ethics of altering young bodies, and a warped perception of beauty.

As fascinating as the world of plastic surgery in Japan may be, it can be just as unsettling when minors are involved.

So, should the scalpel be a tool of adolescence in the pursuit of beauty, or is this a recipe for societal and personal harm?

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?


What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments. #aestherics #doctor #doctorsoftiktok #medicalaesthetics #fyp

♬ original sound – Dr Tim Pearce

While the sight of teenagers undergoing plastic surgery might raise eyebrows elsewhere, Japan presents a unique case.

In this beauty-conscious nation, where legal consent allows minors to opt for procedures, the reasons behind their choices are complex.

Cultural Beauty Ideals

children plastic surgery in japan

Credit: VICE Asia/YouTube

Japan’s emphasis on conformity and specific beauty ideals plays a significant role.

Large eyes, a defined nose, and a youthful appearance are highly valued and often seen as markers of attractiveness and success.

Children, particularly those facing bullying or peer pressure, might feel compelled to conform to these standards, leading them or their parents to consider surgery as a solution.

Parental Influence and Internalised Self-Image

plastic surgery for minors in japan

Credit: VICE Asia/YouTube

Parents, driven by cultural values and a desire for their children’s happiness, might encourage or even financially support their children’s desire for plastic surgery as they believe it can boost their child’s confidence and future prospects.

This can be fueled by the competitive nature of Japanese society, where appearance is often seen as influencing academic and social success.

Beyond external pressures, some children might develop internalised beauty standards, leading to self-consciousness and dissatisfaction with their appearance.

In such cases, plastic surgery might be perceived as a way to achieve their desired image and improve their self-esteem.

Addressing Specific Concerns

Beyond societal beauty norms, some children seek surgery for legitimate reasons.

Birth defects, scarring, or medical conditions impacting facial features can cause distress and affect self-esteem. Here’s where plastic surgery can address specific concerns and potentially improve 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 nine-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

Credit: VICE Asia/YouTube

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 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

children plastic surgery in japan

Credit: VICE Asia/YouTube

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 isn’t really 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

Credit: VICE Asia/YouTube

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.

While legal and viewed as a path to self-improvement, the ethics of child plastic surgery are highly debated in Japan. Concerns are being raised that young minds are exploited and unrealistic expectations are perpetuated.

Critics argue that young minds lack the maturity to make informed decisions since they may not fully understand the long-term risks and complications of surgery, making true informed consent difficult.

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

♬ original sound – Dandan Zhu

Additionally, public opinion is shifting to opposition towards the practice, with growing awareness of potential psychological ramifications and ethical concerns surrounding informed consent.

Other than long-term psychological and social consequences on a child’s development, it could also have negative impacts on 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