Is it illegal to be fat in Japan?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Is it illegal to be fat in Japan?” and provide information on what exactly is Metabo law, its criticisms, whether it is effective, its benefits as well as whether there is discrimination against overweight people in Japan.

Is it illegal to be fat in Japan?

No, it is not illegal to be fat in Japan. However, certain companies and local government bodies can measure the waistlines of people between 45 and 74 years.

Individuals who exceed the weight limit (more than 33.5 inches for men, 35.4 inches for women) would be given tips to lose weight if they are unable to lose weight after 3 months.

After 6 months, such individuals can be reeducated and given more diet tips. This is a campaign on the part of the government to prevent Japanese people from developing heart disease, diabetes, strokes, and other metabolic diseases.

What is the Metabo law?

Metabo law is passed by the Japanese government and is named after metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of diseases namely high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol.

To prevent people from becoming obese, the government imposes penalties on local government bodies that are unable to meet certain targets. 

Under such laws, certain companies have to measure the waist circumference of not only their employees but of families too.

What are the criticisms of Metabo law?

Individuals criticize Metabo law as they feel that the law is too strict. Some even feel that such a law can impact the health of Japanese people negatively.

This is because Japanese people are already thin. As they are already very thin, losing more weight can cause even more negative effects.

Besides, the majority of Japanese people are not obese. Japanese people are also high in terms of life expectancy. As a result, many feel that there is no need for such a law.

Many even feel that the government does not have a right to decide their waist size. Some feel that this law can benefit Western countries more. 

Many people feel that the Metabo law can isolate fat people. There is no screening for blood pressure or cholesterol levels. Besides, thin people can have higher levels of fat too.

Some feel that the Metabo law can trigger body image issues in people. According to some studies, it was observed that there was an increase in eating disorders observed in people after the law was passed.

Laws like this can further promote depression and body image issues in young people. There can be a long-term psychological impact of this law on young children too. Children can grow up watching adults struggling with body image issues and might grow up to be just like them.

Some people feel that this law ignores the issue of childhood obesity as they only measure the waist size of people after 45 years.

Is Metabo law effective?

Even though the government seemed to be very vocal about the Metabo law (through ads or commercials), there are no proper results on whether the Metabo law is effective.

There was a longitudinal study conducted which determined that the Metabo law indeed benefited some people. Many people who enrolled in the weight loss program were able to lose weight.

However, the same study mentioned that a large section of people chose to not enroll in the weight loss program. There is no data on whether these sections of people remained obese.

What are some benefits of Metabo law?

Some people feel that after the introduction of the Metabo law, many health-boosting initiatives have come into the picture. This can be useful for people who genuinely wish to lose weight. Many exercise programs along with counseling tips are widely available more than before.

Is there discrimination against overweight people in Japan?

Yes, there are subtle forms of discrimination. Many overweight people struggle to find jobs in Japan as companies who hire overweight people might have to face heavy penalties because of such a law. They might experience discrimination from their colleagues too.

Is there an exception for Sumo wrestlers?

Sumo wrestlers are celebrated in Japan. However, there are no exceptions for them either. Sumo wrestlers who are younger than 40 do not have to get their waist measured. However, after retirement, they would have to get it checked.


In this brief article, we have answered the question, “Is it illegal to be fat in Japan?” and provided information on what exactly is Metabo law, its criticisms, whether it is effective, its benefits as well as whether there is discrimination against overweight people in Japan.