Requests for reprints should be addressed to Rotem Kowner, Department of Multidisciplinary Studies, The University of Haifa, Haifa 31905,
Israel (Tel: (+972) 4824-0559; Fax: (+972) 4824-9155; E-mail: email@example.com).
The author thanks Toshiki Ogawa, Haruhiko Shobo, Yuji Sasaki, and Mariko Yamamoto for their help and advice, as well as Harumi Befu,
Charles Greenbaum, and Esther Rothblum for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.
2002 International Union of Psychological Science
DOI: 10.1080/0020759014300029 8
Japanese body image: Structure and esteem scores in a
University of Haifa, Israel
ulture appears to affect body image in general and body esteem in particular, yet do
cultural differences in these constructs concern with factorial structure or merely the
magnitude of their manifestation? This study examined what body parts and functions the body
esteem of young Japanese adults consists of, and assessed its relation with several other
construals of the self. A secondary goal was to compare scores of body esteem in Japan with
data previously obtained for people of similar age and background in diverse cultures, such as
the USA, Hong Kong, and Israel. The primary contention of this study was that body image
might vary notably across different cultures. Because of cultural differences in the self, and
indirectly also due to physiognomic variation, members of various cultures may differ in the way
they conceive their own body, have divergent body ideals, and ultimately experience different
feelings toward their body. The subjects were 569 Japanese undergraduates who lled in the
Body Esteem Scale (BES) as well as measures of self-esteem, body consciousness, and social
anxiety. Findings show fairly similar structure of body esteem to that found in the USA, but
lower ratings of body esteem among Japanese than among their American, Chinese, and Israeli
counterparts. In addition, ndings indicate a large gender difference on the total BES score:
Men expressed higher body esteem than women. Among both genders, however, body esteem
correlated positively with self-esteem and body consciousness, but negatively with social anxiety.
It is suggested that the structure similarity between Japanese and American body esteem is the
result of universal human mating patterns as well as similar personality structure. The reason
for the lower Japanese body esteem may involve general tendency for self-effacement and social
anxiety. Further causes for the lower scores, which may concern broader cultural and historical
perspectives, are brie y discussed.