If you live together with Japanese people you may notice that most women tend to cover their mouths when laughing or even taking pictures. It seems that they are ashamed of their smile. There is a historical reason behind this, in this article we will try to understand it.
Nowadays the Japanese believe that this practice is an educated way, a good etiquette. Of course, some do it just to hide their teeth, because in Japan people don't care about taking care of their teeth and having a beautiful smile, many are misaligned or crooked. This is so common that some girls even pay for bend the tooth. Some Japanese girls say they hide their smile because Japanese society disapproves of scandalous women.
Another thing that influences this practice is the fact that laughter in Japan is low. Japanese people do not usually shout or laugh out loud, this can be frowned upon among women, so they cover their mouths. Japan is a collective country, some Japanese had this practice, and others Japanese ended up imitating and ended up becoming a pattern. Nowadays putting your hand on your mouth when smiling is seen as something graceful and cute.
Historical reasons for covering the mouth
Some claim that the custom of putting your hand to your mouth when laughing comes from the Kofun period (250-538). We do not know exactly when it appeared, but a common practice of the time in several Asian countries was to dye your teeth black to strengthen your teeth and protect them against cavities and periodontitis. Because of this, many women were ashamed to show their black smile. Another old custom is that showing the inside of the mouth was not polite, it was normal to just show a smile.
This custom of dyeing teeth black was called Ohaguro (お歯黒). This was not a cause for shame, many did this to hide their yellow teeth, since the white makeup on their faces highlighted the yellow of their teeth. Having black teeth was fashionable in the Nara Period (710-794), but it would not be unusual for some girls to dislike and end up creating this habit of covering their mouths that infected most Japanese women.
Other reasons and facts about covering your mouth
Covering your mouth when smiling can also be natural for women. A universal custom is to put your hand on your face or mouth when the person is surprised or ashamed. There are many similarities regardless of cultural background. Nowadays it is common for Western women to be ashamed to open their mouths or laugh out loud, or they simply find it cute and graceful for girls to put their hands over their mouths when smiling.
Shame and shyness also ends up having a great effect on this custom. We can see that many Japanese people like to post photos on Instagram covering their faces. Some even have the custom of wear masks without even being sick. Other people are simply embarrassed to laugh and put their hands on their faces. You can see that even if you put your hand over your mouth, you can see the person's beautiful smile.
Do men also cover their mouths when laughing? Yes, the problem is that women are more sensitive, educated and more afraid of offending than men. Remember that this is not a Japanese custom, it is just more common in Japan! People who cover their mouths when laughing are found all over the world. Sometimes it will depend on the situation and the subject. Some find it rude to laugh openly in public, while some Japanese women do not even adhere to this custom.
Is that you? What do you think about this subject? Think polite? Weird? Do you usually cover your mouth? Do you find it attractive and graceful? We would like to hear your opinion in the comment. I thank you in advance for reading, sharing and comments.