The Fuss Over Bagel Heads

Ever since the Taboo episode featuring saline forehead injections aired, the media has been making a fuss over the “bagel heads” of Japan.  Even my parents and their friends were talking about it!  What do you think of bagel heads and the hype around them?

I first learned about the body modification procedure a year ago when BMX riders Mike Escamilla and Zach Yankush explored the Japanese underground with blogger La Carmina (I wrote about it on my other blog).  When my parents’ friend mentioned it as a new “trend” in Japan, I knew I had to do a bit of damage control.

The media has been making it seem like a widespread phenomenon or at least something that the Japanese people know about.  In reality, bagel heads are very underground; it’s probably less well-known than suspension and tongue splitting is in the U.S.  As La Carmina puts it in her Huffington Post article, “To call it a “crazy new Japanese fad” is as accurate as calling dirty underwear vending machines a trend, when only a handful ever existed.”  (I never saw any underwear vending machines even though my friends made a fuss about it.)

The media will always find something to blow out of proportion, especially when the subject is unusual, potentially risky, or socially unacceptable.  It’s annoying, but I think it also helps increase understanding.  People who engage in body modification aren’t freaks, and they’re not the same.  You see that with the participants in the Taboo clip.  While I may never understand why someone would inject saline into their faces, I can appreciate that this is form of self-expression.  Not only that, it shows how cultural exchange can impact the underground (as the originator of the bagel heads learned about saline injections in Canada) and how subcultures evolve.

Listening to: “Hatsukoi” live by Mika Nakashima

Leave a comment


  1. Wow! I’ve never even heard of this. It kinda freaks me out…but it’s also fascinating…

    • Proof that this isn’t everywhere in Japan (which was the impression my parents got). I love how the girl describes the “bagel” as “kawaii”. Just shows how everyone’s opinions of beauty is different.


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