Recently, posts centred around the peculiarity of ‘Smile Mask Syndrome’ have resurfaced on Social Media sites, as a result of a redditor bringing up the previously hotly debated topic once more. And this condition is debated for a reason. It’s cause? Smiling.

Smile Mask Syndrome is a psychological disorder, originally hypothesised by a leading Japanese psychiatrist by the name of Makoto Natsume. As a professor at Osaka Shoin Women’s University and a councillor for some of the students, Makoto began to notice a recurring pattern between a number of his students. They were smiling, even though they were recounting stressful and upsetting incidences in their lives.

Though Makoto began to develop his own theory as to why this strange phenomenon would occur - and Japan’s service industry was to blame.

According to, despite Japan typically being known for their innovation in electronics and a plethora of other scientific manufacturing, it is actually Japan’s service industry that accounts for an enormous chunk of their economy, a whopping ‘71.4% of GDP in 2012’, compared to industry accounting for 27.5%.

Most who have visited Japan would likely say the same thing; Japan’s service industry is incredibly welcoming and warm to tourists and local residents alike. However, their smiles aren’t necessarily genuine, as management are often insistent on their staff wearing convincing smiles, real or not. One redditor even shared his own side of the story, stating that: “My old coworker used to work at a hotel in Japan and he was told his smile wasn't good enough and to stop what he was doing and go practice. He was practicing for hours until his manager found him and told him to get back to work.”

Makoto Natsume believed this to be the root of his students unwilling smiles. Makoto also believed that Smile Mask Syndrome was predominantly geared towards women in the service industry, however argued that this could also be present in men too.

It also became apparent to Makoto that individuals who were not previously suffering from depression, developed depression as a result of this fake smiling. One redditor commented on the thread, “Even people who are truly happy don't smile all the time, so it's gotta be pretty horrible to be forced to smile for that long (especially if they aren't happy to begin with)”.

This insight now may lead one to question whether the smiles they receive from those working in the Japanese service industry, are genuine or simply, just a facade.