The Average Height In Japan And The World

Have you ever wondered about the average height of people in Japan? It’s a question that might not cross your mind often, but it’s one that holds surprising significance in Japanese society. Height, for many, isn’t just a matter of genetics or nutrition; it’s a cultural marker, a topic of curiosity, and sometimes, even a source of insecurity.

In a world where height can be a symbol of strength, attractiveness, or even social status, understanding the trends and shifts in the height of the Japanese population offers a unique window into the country’s societal and health dynamics.

Contrary to stereotypes, Japanese individuals tend to be shorter in stature compared to many Western and neighboring Asian populations. However, this doesn’t mean that height is a static characteristic. In fact, the average height of Japanese people has undergone significant changes over the past century, reflecting shifts in diet, healthcare, lifestyle, and even societal norms.

Exploring these changes not only sheds light on the physical health and well-being of the Japanese populace but also underscores the intricate relationship between culture, biology, and environment. So, let’s delve into the intriguing world of height dynamics in Japan, where inches and centimeters tell a story of evolution and adaptation.

Are Japanese people short?

Indeed, in the annals of history, Japanese people were renowned for their comparatively diminutive stature. During an earlier era, the average height for Japanese males measured at approximately 5 feet 2 inches (160.3 centimeters), while their female counterparts averaged around 4 feet 9 inches (148.9 centimeters) in height.

But what factors contributed to this characteristic?

One compelling explanation can be traced to genetics. East Asians, including the Japanese, exhibit a unique genetic trait associated with shorter stature, known as the high-mobility group AT-hook 2 (HMGA2) gene [1]. This genetic predisposition has played a pivotal role in shaping the physical attributes of the Japanese people.

Additionally, the aftermath of World War II brought about transformative changes in the Japanese society, both physically and mentally. This period marked a turning point, leading to significant alterations in lifestyle, nutrition, and overall well-being. As a result, the historical depiction of Japanese people as “short” persisted for well over a century.

So, how about the average height in Japan and the world today?

Japanese height increased more than other countries, except South Korea. They acquired nearly 6 inches (15 centimeters) between 1914 and 2014 [2]. Particularly, the mean height of Japanese men is 5 feet 8 inches (172.06 centimeters). Meanwhile, the mean height of Japanese women is 5 feet 2 inches (158.5 centimeters) [3].

But compared to the average height of Americans, Australians, or British people, the Japanese are still short by about 1.1 – 1.5 inches (3 – 4 centimeters).

Below is the table with the average of some countries. Let’s take a look!

CountryThe average height of menThe average height of women
Latvia5 feet 11 ½ inches (181.2 centimeters)5 feet 6 ½ inches (168.8 centimeters)
Netherlands5 feet 11 ½ inches (181.2 centimeters)5 feet 6 ½ inches (168.5 centimeters)
Denmark5 feet 11 inches (180.4 centimeters)5 feet 6 inches (167.2 centimeters)
Poland5 feet 10 ½ inches (178.7 centimeters)5 feet 5 inches (165.1 centimeters)
Germany5 feet 10 inches (178 centimeters)5 feet 5 inches (165 centimeters)
Australia5 feet 9 inches (175.6 centimeters)5 feet 3 ½ inches (161.8 centimeters)
United States5 feet 9 inches (175.3 centimeters)5 feet 3 ½ inches (161.3 centimeters)
Spain5 feet 8 ½ inches (174 centimeters)5 feet 4 inches (163 centimeters)
South Korea5 feet 8 ½ inches (174.6 centimeters)5 feet 3 ½ inches (161.5 centimeters)
China5 feet 6 inches (167.1 centimeters)5 feet 1 ½ inch (155.8 centimeters)
Thailand5 feet 4 ½ inches (163.7 centimeters)5 feet ½ inches (153.7 centimeters)
Peru5 feet 4 ½ inches (164 centimeters)4 feet 11 ½ inches (151 centimeters)

What affects height in Japan?

Although the Japanese are shorter than most Westerners on average, they have gotten taller in less than a century. What made this surge? Some of the factors are listed below.


If parents are tall, good chances are that their children might be as well. That is because genes play one of the most necessary roles in determining the height of a person.

Many Japanese women married the U.S. troops who settled in Japan after World War II. That is why many “hybrid” kids were born, and that affected the height of Japanese people in the future.


Diet or nutrition is the next factor that is highly responsible for height. Having proper and suitable nutrition at an early age and during their growing years might affect the children’s growth, including physical and mental health.

So, what do the Japanese do to improve their nutrition?

The Japanese government started a campaign, called the “Milk Plan.” Milk was added to the meals in school between the 1950s and 1960s. The most important aim of this plan was to enhance the health of the people after the war. Until now, Japanese students drink milk as well as use other kinds of dairy products. The consumption of milk is less than in America and Europe though. In addition to milk, the Japanese started adding pork and beef to every diet to increase protein intake. And this nutrient is necessary for muscle and bone growth.

Another interesting thing about the Japanese diet is that they often consume fish and natto. While natto is a traditional and nutritious food for enhancing bone health and immunity, fish has a rich source of nutrients needed for height growth.

The traditional Japanese breakfast with rice, seaweed, soybean-paste soup, and pickled vegetables has been replaced by a westernized menu with toast, scrambled eggs, cereals, and tossed salads in some families. This is common since many hotels in Japan offer both Japanese and Western breakfasts.

Eating habits

Rapid westernization has remarkably changed Japanese eating habits. Instead of eating the traditional lunch of rice balls, many people queue up in front of fast food stores or convenience stores. You also see delivery men carrying pizzas or hamburgers aside from rice and noodle dishes.

Dietary supplements

Japan’s dietary supplement industry has a short history since they were not widely recognized until the early 1990s. But now, Japan is the world’s third-largest dietary supplements market. Nearly 70% of the Japanese use vitamins and supplements in their daily life.

Physical activities

Getting a proper exercise routine coupled with good nutrition might help release growth hormones necessary for height increase.

Radio Taiso is a radio exercise, which was launched by the Japanese government in 1982. Like the “Milk Plan,” this campaign was popular, especially among kids and the elderly. Besides, Japanese children are encouraged to engage in a variety of sports from an early age.


If Japanese people sat on rice-straw mats for centuries, they have now changed to Western styles, like sitting on chairs or lying on beds. Over time, this has stopped the constant pressure on the knees of Japanese kids, making them get taller and taller.

In summary

It is easy to recognize that the average height in Japan for both men and women has remarkably increased. Although this number is shorter than in Western countries, it has remarkably increased over the last century. And that depends on many different campaigns and changes in this country.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the average height in Japan compare to the global average?

Compared to the global average, the average height in Japan is relatively shorter. However, it’s important to note that height can vary significantly across different countries and regions due to various factors, including genetics, nutrition, and overall health.

Has the average height of Japanese people changed over time?

Yes, the average height of Japanese people has seen significant changes over the past century. During the early 20th century, Japanese individuals were generally shorter in stature. However, with improvements in living conditions, healthcare, and nutrition, there has been a noticeable increase in average height over time.

Are Japanese people getting taller or shorter?

In general, Japanese people have been getting taller over the years. This can be attributed to factors such as improved healthcare, access to better nutrition, and overall improvements in living standards. However, it’s important to remember that there can be variations within different age groups and regions.

How does the average height in Japan compare to other Asian countries?

The average height in Japan is relatively shorter compared to some other Asian countries, particularly those in Central Asia like Korea and China. However, it’s important to note that height can vary within populations, and there can be overlaps between different countries.

Why do people in Japan worry about their height?

Height is a significant concern for many individuals in Japan due to societal and cultural factors. In certain contexts, taller height may be associated with perceived advantages, such as better job prospects or romantic relationships. Consequently, some people may desire to be taller, while others may feel self-conscious about being too tall.

Are there any health implications associated with height?

While height itself is not necessarily an indicator of overall health, proper growth and development during childhood and adolescence are important. It’s crucial to maintain a balanced diet, engage in regular physical activity, and receive adequate healthcare to ensure optimal growth and overall well-being.

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