Why It’s Easier to Stay Thin In Japan vs. America

Have you ever strolled through the bustling streets of Japan and noticed the rarity of obesity?

Contrast this with a walk down any American city, and the difference is startling. The United States grapples with a 35% obesity rate among adults, while Japan maintains a slim 3.5% ¹.

What’s the secret behind this striking disparity? This isn’t just about green tea or fermented foods; it’s a tale of two vastly different food environments.

The Fast Food Factor

mcdonalds coke s670136818
Image Credit: 8th.creator/ShutterStock.

In the United States, the landscape is dotted with over 198,153 ² fast-food establishments. Japan, in contrast, has a modest 6,169 ³. This means that for every fast-food outlet in Japan, America has about 15.

Despite this, Japan isn’t devoid of fast food, fried treats, or sugary sodas. What sets Japan apart, however, is the availability of healthy alternatives at every turn.

Breakfast Battles: A Study In Contrasts

Consider the average American breakfast for a busy individual: McGriddles, hashbrowns, processed cheese sandwiches, or pancakes from a chain diner.

Now, picture a quick breakfast in Japan: a $4 meal at Sukiya with rice, miso soup, baked fish, and a side of potato salad.

The difference? In Japan, even convenience stores offer healthy options like rice balls, small salads, or sushi – a stark contrast to the trans-fat-laden offerings in American counterparts.

Lunchtime In Japan: A Healthy Variety

sushi s607776707
Image Credit: Katerininamd/ShutterStock.

For a quick lunch in Japan, the choices are varied: sushi, spicy tofu soup with beef, pork, and vegetables at Matsuya, or a healthier meal at an izakaya.

The availability of diverse and healthy options at affordable prices makes it easier for the Japanese to maintain a healthier diet without getting bored or breaking the bank.

Beverage Choices: Tea vs. Soda

mountain dew s1782584564
Image Credit: MDV Edwards/ShutterStock.

In the U.S., soda is a staple, with the country leading in consumption. Japan, ranking 56th, predominantly opts for tea, often served free with meals.

This preference, coupled with the smaller sizes of soda servings and the absence of oversized options, significantly contributes to healthier hydration habits in Japan.

The Convenience Store Phenomenon

With about 55,000 convenience stores in Japan, almost ten times more per square kilometer than in the U.S., access to healthy food is significantly easier.

Japanese convenience stores, unlike their American counterparts, offer a range of reasonably healthy food items. This accessibility plays a crucial role in the dietary habits of the Japanese.

The Vending Machine Culture

vending machines passive income idea
Image Credit: Bayhu19/Shutterstock.

Japan’s vending machines, the highest per capita globally, offer a fascinating insight.

While they are everywhere, stocked with soda, a closer look reveals a plethora of healthier options like unsweetened teas, black coffee, and water, unlike the predominantly sweetened beverage options in American machines.

The Underlying Message

Japan’s approach to food isn’t just about offering healthier options; it’s about making these options conveniently available and appealing.

This ease of access to a variety of healthier food choices, coupled with cultural habits like a preference for tea, creates an environment where making healthier choices becomes the norm, not the exception.


  1. sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953615300708
  2. ibisworld.com/industry-statistics/number-of-businesses/fast-food-restaurants-united-states/
  3. statista.com/statistics/1309576/japan-leading-fast-food-restaurants-by-stlore-number/

Read Next

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.