Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Recently summoned by officials of the city of Amagasaki, Japan, Mr. Minoru Nogiri, 45, a flower shop owner, found himself lining up to have his waistline measured. With no visible paunch, he seemed to run little risk of being classified as overweight.
Because of the new state-prescribed limit for male waistlines is a strict 33.5 inches, he had anxiously measured himself at home a couple of days earlier. “I’m on the border,” he moaned.
Japan, a country not traditionally known for its overweight people, has undertaken one of the most ambitious campaigns ever by a nation to slim down its citizens.
Under a national law that came into effect April 2008, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74. That represents more than 56 million waistlines!
Those exceeding government limits - 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women - will be given dieting guidance. If after three months they do not lose weight, they will be steered toward further re-education and special checkups.
The government will impose financial penalties on companies and local governments that fail to meet specific targets. Officials have moved aggressively into measuring waistlines, stressing that the campaign will keep the spread of diseases like diabetes and strokes in check and help curb the waistlines of an aging society.
When the turn came for the flower shop owner, Mr. Nogiri of Amagasaki city, he entered a booth where he had to bare his midriff, exposing a flat stomach with barely discernible love handles. A nurse wrapped a tape measure around his waist across his navel: 33.6 inches, or 0.1 inch over the limit.
“That’s a stunning blow!” he cried out, defeat spreading across his face.
Matsushita, one of the big companies in Japan, must measure the waistlines of at least 80 percent of its employees. They must get 10 percent of those deemed overweight to lose weight by 2012, and 25 percent of them to lose weight by 2015.
As part of its intensifying efforts, the company has distributed to its employees towels that double also as tape measures.
NEC, Japan’s largest maker of personal computers, said that if it failed to meet its targets, it could incur as much as $19 million in penalties.
Kenzo Nagata, 73, a toy store owner, said he had ignored a letter summoning him to a so-called special check-up. His waistline was no one’s business but his own, he said. He planned to disregard the second notice that the city was scheduled to mail to those that refuse to comply.
Source: NY Times, by Mr. N. Onishi, 2008-06-13

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