Twenty-two-year-old Sana Hashimoto is a bit young for dentures, but that didn't stop the Tokyo college student from making a trip to the dentist for Japan's latest fashion fad--an artificial, crooked tooth.
Unlike Western countries, Japan has never looked down on "yaeba," or a snaggletooth, instead finding a less-than-perfect smile cute and endearing.
Now, thanks to the popularity of celebrities sporting a double tooth, this natural quirk has turned into a cosmetic craze. Over the past few years, women of all ages have been flocking to dental clinics to have an artificial tooth attached.
"Like false eyelashes, a crooked tooth is part of a new fad," said Hashimoto, who had a false tooth attached in June.
"I know it's better to have straight teeth, but it's boring to see everyone with them. So I decided to express my individuality with a fang."
One of the girls behind the craze is Tomomi Itano, a member of the all-girl idol group AKB48 whose prominent canine is a distinctive part of her look. As Itano, 21, started appearing on TV shows and in magazines, fans began clamoring for the same look.
Itano's snaggletooth smile isn't the only face of the new fad.
In his book "Yaeba Girl," published last winter by Asahi Shimbun Publications Inc., Yasutaka Maekawa discusses celebrities with a double tooth and the historical background of Japan's embrace of crooked teeth.
And Sky Perfect JSAT Corp., a pay satellite broadcaster, now airs a 30-minute program called "Yaeba Girls Connection."
Japan's fang fad has also drawn the attention of foreign media. The New York Times quoted a popular beauty blog writer as saying "In Japan, in fact, crooked teeth are actually endearing, and it shows that a girl is not perfect. And, in a way, men find that more approachable than someone who is too overly perfect."
Dental Salon Plaisir, a dental clinic in Tokyo's posh Ginza district, says inquiries started coming in about two years ago about attaching a double tooth.
At its busiest, the clinic performs about 30 of the procedures a month, eight times the number four years ago, when it began offering the service.
Plaisir uses an artificial tooth made mainly of ceramics that is attached to a real tooth with glue, an hour-long procedure.
One that a user can detach by herself costs 30,000 yen ($385).
An artificial tooth that does not come off even during meals costs 49,000 yen.
More than 80 percent of the clients receiving the procedure at Plaisir are women in their 20s. But some are in their 40s, who say they want to have the youthful look that a double tooth imparts.
Yoko Kashiyama, director of Plaisir, stresses the cosmetic procedure is safe.
"I don't strongly recommend it because it affects tooth alignment," Kashiyama said. "But I feel compelled to continue with the cosmetic procedure when I hear a client telling us with a smile that she will have a more positive outlook on life."
But an association of dental hygienists in Tokyo expressed concern about the practice.
"It makes it harder to brush your teeth and you could have to have your real tooth whittled away to unglue a false tooth," said Chiaki Yamada, an association member. "It's too risky for a fashion."
I will never understand this trend...