Social Theory & Health

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 367–388 | Cite as

A metabolic self in contemporary Japan: a cultural reading

  • Genaro Castro-VázquezEmail author
Original Article


Framed by international concerns about obesity and overweight, Japanese officials highlight rising trends of men aged between 40 and 60 suffering from metabolic syndrome. Theoretically grounded in symbolic interactionism and the concept of ‘biopedagogy’ Wright (Biopolitics and the ‘obesity epidemic’ governing bodies, Routledge, London and New York, 2009), this article explores the symbolism attached to a metabolic self through a textual and iconographic analysis of 805 media reports and Internet sites produced between 2009 and 2017. Definition, guidance and gender are three axes that orient the analysis, whose outcomes suggest that from a definitional viewpoint a medical and ‘scientifically valid’ causal link between a metabolic self and disease cannot be established, but the origin of metabolic syndrome is allegedly ignorance and indolence, suggesting that metabolic syndrome is presocial. Guidance is largely underpinned by the formula dieting + exercise = bodyweight control, the retrieval of traditional Japanese food and the commodification of a metabo self. The case history of a married older man grappling with metabolic syndrome challenges the presociality thesis, and at the same time points up the feminisation of care. To conclude, the paper underscores that a metabo self has been largely scripted as a Westernised, commodified, weak-willed, male self largely depending on women.


BMI Obesity Sedentariness Visceral fat Westernisation Lifestyle disease 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Asian Studies ProgrammeKansai Gaidai UniversityHirakata CityJapan

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