I’m not sure about the rest of Asia, but when I was growing up in Singapore, there was a huge consensus among Singaporean males that Japanese females are much prettier than our Singaporean counterparts. Given that most of my friends who claimed it as a fact only came to that conclusion based on seeing pretty Japanese actresses on TV, I’ve always felt quite ambivalent about this point - come on, people always put on prettier than average faces on TV, but does that prove the case for the general population?

Given that I recently had the opportunity to visit Japan, I decided to put the claims to the test and do some observations on my own, through the perennial hobby of mine - people watching. Given that I had time to spare on Sunday noon after checking out, and too lazy to lug my luggage around to do sightseeing before hopping on the train to Narita, I decided to sit down in Tokyo subway station and record my observations. It isn’t surprising that I get funny stares by people, wondering what I was doing, but predictably, nobody did ever approach me and asked questions (not that I’ll be able to answer them anyway, given my command of Japanese is utterly atrocious!)

I’ve done the same measurement at the linkway to Suntec City along the way from City Hall MRT station as a comparison, which my observation is carried out on a Thursday evening at around 6pm. Both measurements are timed at a 50 minute interval. There’s nothing scientific about why 50-minutes was chosen, I would have much rather made it an hour if I could. But in Tokyo, I had to take off to catch my train to Narita, which explains the duration. You might think that it’s a fun exercise to do, but it does get tiresome past the 40 minute mark. Try it out if you aren’t convinced!

In my observations, only females are observed and also, only East Asian looking women are considered in the study, so that it’s a fair comparison between apples with apples. I’ve also excluded young children who I deemed below the ages of 14 and people who looked over their 40’s. It should however be noted that this process isn’t scientific, given that there’s no reasonable way to assess their age without any verification. This and other potential biased-ness are all recorded duly after the results presented. The observation is segregated into roughly 4 categories, which I’ll briefly explain below:

  1. Definitely Good Looking - People I consider good looking, in which my opinion is unlikely to be subjected to change.
  2. Considered Good Looking - People I think are good looking, but which my opinion may change depending on conditions.
  3. Considered Not Good Looking - People I think are not good looking, but which may change depending on conditions.
  4. Definitely Not Good Looking - People I think who are not good looking, in which my opinion is unlikely to be subjected to change.

The conditions mentioned in points 2 and 3, are related to things like the mood of the day, and physical conditions such as viewing angle, lighting etc. The volatility in 2 and 3, simply means that I’m factoring into account that some people may look better if I am having a good day, and vice-versa. It was necessary, given that my observations are fleeting - people don’t stand around all day at thoroughfares for you to observe, but for the purposes of simplicity, people in category 2 should be considered as just good looking, and not good looking in category 3.

The results are tabulated below:

Japan Singapore
Definitely Good Looking 7 0
Considered Good Looking 149 96
Considered Not Good Looking 130 157
Definitely Not Good Looking 49 151
Total People Sighted 335 404

Before we go into the analysis of the results, I’ll just like to note all the potential biases that can occur in this observation.

  1. Beauty is always in the eyes of the beholder. I’m judging beauty by my standards, so this is definitely a case of ‘your mileage may vary’.
  2. I’ve noticed that internally, if I had a period when I’m seeing a string of consecutive good looking faces, I’ll have the tendency of becoming stricter in my grading criteria. The same principle applies in reverse, which means that the results may be possibly skewed, but it should hopefully be equally skewed in both observations.
  3. Given there is no means of checking the ages of all the people I’ve scanned, I did notice my tendency of adding attractive middle-aged women, and possibly excluding less good looking women who may be in actuality, under the 40’s criteria. This has myself convinced that the perception of age is highly dependent on how a person looks, however unfair it sounds!
  4. The stream of commuters are not uniform, and are more spiky in nature, given the fact of increases in traffic only happens during the arrivals of trains. This results in uneven observation times, where I have longer periods to scan during non-peak periods vs peak periods.


When it comes to beauty, I’ve always maintained my thesis that the ratio of beautiful women to the general population should remain roughly the same, irrespective of regions - which means it is the size of the population that determines the number of pretty faces that you’ll see on the streets, which I’ve reasoned that it is why you naturally see more pretty faces in populous countries like Japan, China and Korea, than say, a small country like Singapore. I had classified 46.5% of the Japanese females sighted as pretty, compared to 23.7% for Singaporean females.

A possible factor may be in the differences in their attitudes towards cosmetics and dressing. From casual observation, I had the impression that Japanese women put on much more make up than Singaporeans. Almost all Japanese women, young and old, are dabbed in cosmetics of some sort. The second observation I had, is that Singaporeans have the tendency to dress much more casually than the Japanese, which may have also have been a factor. Both trends seem to be more pronounced with younger Singaporean teenagers and women in their early 20’s, maybe it’s because they either have less spending power on such ‘frivolities’, or they are letting their youthfulness compensate for the lack of need to dress up.

Talking about women is always a touchy issue, and that said, I’ll profess that my opinions are not meant to be taken as fact of any sort, and neither do I imply any sort of preference toward women of either country. My observations are solely done for fun, and mainly in satisfying my personal curiosity of trying to debunk the broad assertions of attractiveness that Singaporean males seem to profess over Japanese women. I’m not sure how much of that actually correlates with reality, even though my observations seem to affirm such a bias. I suppose if any of my Singaporean mates sprout such ‘nonsense’ again, I should learn to just keep my mouth shut!