The 3D breasts were inevitable. After Nintendo revealed its glasses-free 3D portable, the Nintendo 3DS, it was only a brief matter of time before gamers in Japan could ogle 3D boobs them. Senran Kagura, the first of what's likely to be many games with that feature, includes a bevy of top-heavy, jiggly ninjas.
When Kenichiro Takaki, the game's creator, was thinking about what kind of game he should make, boobs came to mind within 30 seconds. Hardly a surprise, no? Large norgs bust out in anime and games as character tropes, but also on television and in glossy magazines.
In Japan, there are "boob idols" like Rio Natsume, who, oddly, sang on the theme song for Virtua Fighter: Cyber Generation. These idols end up being token guests on variety shows for viewers to ogle. Unless they're incredibly witty, they talk about their large, often natural breasts for a couple of minutes. Then are pretty much ignored for the rest of the show. They are objectified and then reduced to window dressing. A few boob idols, such as former Sega arcade spokeslady Megumi, have crossed over to dramas and roles that do not focus on their chest.
Others, such as the Kano Sisters, and their cartoony, rumored-to-be false chests, have made a career out of dressing like high-priced hostesses in evening wear. At the turn of this century, the duo were so popular that Takara made Kano Sister dolls. Even today, their photobooks continue to top the best seller charts.
Japan's interest in breasts, especially large ones, is strong. There's a new idol group called KNU23. Inspired by Akihabara idol unit AKB48, KNU23 doesn't have 23 members, but around 12. "KNU" stands for "kyonyuu", which means "giant breasts" in Japanese. The group is readying its debut single for a 2011 release, and hopes it can stand out in a sea of idol groups. All KNU23 members have breasts over G (DDD in US sizes) on the Japanese bra-size chart.
The term kyonyuu has its roots in "hotel health" (massage parlors) or "soapland" (brothels). Other words, such as "bakunyuu" (literally "exploding breasts") convey a similar meaning; that term is being used in Senran Kagura promotions. During the late 1980s, the country's prostitution industry began using the term kyonyuu in print ads. The word soon spread to adult movies. The skin-tight, micro mini-skirt "body con" ("body-conscious") look was popularized during the decade, and a prime example of the flashy excess of the country's Bubble Economy. Kyonyuu was in line with those excesses. Japanese business was ruling the global economy, and a handful was no longer enough.
Traditionally, large breasts were not equated with beauty in Japan. Compared to Western dress, kimonos do not accentuate the chest, but rather, minimize the chest. While wearing a kimono (a real kimono), a woman's chest and torso are wrapped in undergarments.
The kimono is closed across the chest, and the kimono's belt, called an obi, is wrapped around the torso. With all the layers and wrapping, a woman's chest is hidden. The kimono does accentuate hips, and the back of her neck is exposed. This area has been eroticized and fetishized in Japanese art throughout the centuries. This isn't to say Japanese don't like breasts and breasts, large and small, haven't made guest appearances in Japanese art. They have.
Another reason that large breasts weren't fetishized for a long time in Japan is that, historically, Japanese women have had smaller breasts than their Western counterparts. They are physically smaller. In the post-war era, this began to change. Japanese people also have become larger, something that is evident if you ever visit a pre-war or post-war building. It's anecdotal, but the ceilings are lower.
The spurt in Japanese size is due to a change in diet—a change that began in the late 19th century, slowly, but was accelerated during the U.S. Occupation. Over the decades, there has been a steady increase in breast size, with each generation of women have larger breasts on average than the previous one.
Blame (or thank) Western eating habits for some of the body changes. It was during the post-war era that chains of diner-style restaurants became popular. When Marilyn Monroe visited Japan in 1954 on her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio, her favorite restaurant wasn't a traditional Japanese eatery, but a diner in Fukuoka. She loved Royal Host, particularly the French Onion soup. Perhaps Monroe didn't like Japanese food, but she went there three days in a row, ordering the soup every single time. Royal Host is now a Japanese institution, and the country has a vibrant diner culture.
Japanese today are bigger than previous generations, with the average 20-year-old woman standing three inches taller than one did in 1950. According to The Wall Street Journal, nutritionists said this is the result of diet. As Showa Pharmaceutical University's Shinichi Tashiro told The Journal, the extra fat intake goes to young girls' hips or breasts.
Japan's Western cooking didn't begin with the arrival of Americans; however, its use of breast implants did. During the Occupation, Japanese prostitutes began getting injections of industrial-grade silicone in hopes of appealing to U.S. servicemen. The stereotype, based on movies and magazines, was that all American women had enormous breasts and that all American men liked enormous breasts. Injecting industrial-grade silicone into your chest is not a good idea, and the silicone or paraffin caused numerous health issues, including death.
Throughout the 1960s in Japan, concerns arose over the possibile correlation between auto-immune disease and breast augmentation. This could be the reason why silicone breast implants were stigmatized in Japan for many years, with women seeking alternative, less intrusive methods, such as massage, exercises, and supplements to increase bust size. Recently, one researcher said he devised a ringtone that would increase bust size.
"Cosmetic surgery used to have a shadowy reputation," Toshiya Handa, a plastic surgeon, told The Sydney Morning Herald. "It was the kind of thing you only heard about celebrities and bar hostesses doing."
In the 1960s, the word "boin" (ボイン) was coined after popular singer and actress Yukiji Asaoka and her ample assets appeared in a bikini on late night television. One of the hosts, who went on to serve as an elected official in the Japanese Diet, uttered the word after seeing Asaoka. By 1969, a humorous song "Nageki no Boin" (The Boob Blues) was a smash hit in Japan, selling 800,000 copies. The word was widely used until the 1980s, when it was replaced by kyonyuu ("giant breasts").
That same decade, more and more large-chested characters, such as Fujiko in Lupin the Third became manga mainstays. Much like American exploitation flicks of the same era, Japanese grindhouse pictures honed in on the breasts of their female leads. Decades later, during the 1980s onward, Japanese porn ratcheted up the fetish element, throwing out plot completely to literally measure actresses' breasts on camera and having them do stunts like smush tomatoes—among other things.
Some Japanese women do have naturally large breasts; many do not. It's a numbers game; the fewer there are, the more they are fetishized. Even with all the boobs that dominate popular media, Japan still has such an abundance of small-chested famous females—both real and not—that perhaps many young women don't feel overwhelming pressure to measure up. Large boobs are nice and all, but there are tons of flat-chested Japanese idols who are still considered very cute by males and females alike.
But the appearance of breasts, whether they're "giant" or "exploding", in popular media is increasingly becoming divorced from reality in Japan. In video games and anime especially, they're no longer huge breasts, they're simply gravity-defying shapes. In video games, breasts have become a physics equation. They're icons, symbols. These rounds spheres have come to mean breasts. But they're not even an ideal and don't actually represent the female form, which comes in an array of shapes and sizes, from small, to, yes, large.