When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

Welcome to the world of "hengao" (変顔). Literally, it means "strange face". And Japan has perfected it.

"Hengao" is certainly not new—and it exists in various various forms around the world. In Japan, it's an essential part of comedy, and numerous comedians have made careers out of their abilities to make funny faces.

However, in the last decade or so, an increasing number of models, idols, and dreamboats have increasingly showcased their ability to make funny faces. Ditto for regular folks posing with friends.

When celebs appear on TV, they often show their hengao or are even asked if they can do a funny face. It's very much a thing! So, let's have a look at some famous hengao:

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

Here's fashion model Nozomi Sasaki.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

Reni Takagi from idol group Momoiro Clover Z is a funny face master.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

So is Yuko Oshima from AKB48.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

And here's Rino Sashihara from HKT48.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

But it's not only young women who do hengao. Some comedians, like Yuki Himura from the comedy duo Bananaman is a hengao pro. Then again, even when he's not making faces, his mug is, and I don't mean to be rude, rather odd.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

Another funny man famous for his odd faces is Wacky (ワッキー) of the comedy group Penalty. Blog Tofugu has a great post on Wacky and hengao that's worth checking out.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

One of the comedians that really helped popularize hengao with young Japanese is Ken Shimura on his Ken Shimura no Bakatono-sama variety show. Often when people do hengao poses, they appear to be influenced by Shimura's antics. Above, Ken Shimura poses with Tomomi Itano, sans goofy facial expression.

But it's not only male comedians. Here dreamboat Haruma Miura makes a hengao on a TV drama.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

Even ten years ago (and before that), Japanese women's fashion mags would have sections in which models would make funny faces. The gap—between their regular appearance—was supposed to be a source of amusement. Remember, this was women appealing to women.

According to Pouch, a Japanese website aimed at females, there's a greater tendency for women in Japan to want to amuse their female friends with hengao than members of the opposite sex.

Some in Japan say it's more enjoyable than sexy poses because you can enjoy laughing at the pics with your friends afterwards and that the funny faces put everyone at ease. That doesn't mean all young females (or males, for that matter) enjoy hengao! Some women say that since they can't do a good strange face, they feel embarrassed or that their own hengao photos make them feel unpleasant.

As noted on Naver, there's a variety of theories as to why is it women who are especially fixated on hengao pics: they range from the hengao being non-threatening to other women to there being an appeal for attractive people in pulling off unattractive faces.

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

When Facial Expressions Get Strange in Japan

女の子が“変顔”で写真を撮りたがるのにはワケがあった [Naver]

Photos: TrendKokodesu, Matome, BlackOps, Oriran, AKBfans, Imgur, N2, Blogimg, Omoshiro, Up, Poco, Ameba