Japanese women are exceptionally and unnecessarily conscious of their appearance. According to an international survey conducted in 2004, just 23% of Japanese females at that time were obese or overweight according to medical criteria, yet 52% believed themselves to be too heavy. In several Western countries, by contrast, the rate of obesity was significantly higher, yet a lower proportion of the female population perceived themselves as weighing more than they should. The same survey found only 23% of Japanese ladies were “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with their beauty. In the UK, 61% said they were happy; in some other nations, the self-satisfaction rate was over 80%. Japan's unusually large beauty industry (worth around US$18 billion per year) both reinforces and feeds off this phenomenon.

Even though many male Western visitors and residents say Japanese ladies are among the world's most attractive, women in Japan seem not to have as much self-esteem as they should. So you can judge for yourself, here are six of the very best:

Mao InoueCredit: www.listal.com

Mao Inoue

Exuding a cool, refined beauty, Mao was born January 9, 1987 in Yokohama, the harbor city adjacent to Tokyo. She made her TV debut at the very tender age of five, and has been making frequent appearances in television shows and movies since turning 12. The fact she's never lacked for work can't simply be attributed to her looks, as she's won awards for her acting. Among major prizes has been the 2012 Japan Academy Prize for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for her work in the previous year's Rebirth. In that film, which was a massive critical success, Mao plays a young woman who was abducted as from her biological parents as a baby, then raised by her female kidnapper for four years, causing longlasting trauma and emotional confusion.

Nana OguraNana OguraCredit: Wikimedia Commons

Born January 10, 1990 in Kanagawa Prefecture, the local government division that includes Yokohama, Ogura made her debut as a model and adult-movie actress in 2009. Since then, her natural curves, girl-next-door appeal and winning smile have won her huge numbers of fans within Japan and overseas. Ogura's fame took another big step forward in 2012 when she posed for a photo book just after taking a beach vacation. In a part of the world where many still consider fair skin as a prerequisite of beauty, her tan lines delighted and intrigued her fans. She's 160cm tall and seems never to have colored her silky black hair, preferring to wear it long.

Yui HatanoCredit: Public DomainYui Hatano

Another young lady who's used a career in Japanese adult movies as a foundation from which to launch herself into the world of mainstream entertainment, the 163cm-tall Hatano was born on May 24, 1988 in the ancient city of Kyoto.

Among images of her floating across the World Wide Web are a set in which she wears a skimpy version of the Argentina soccer team's jersey and shorts. Hatano is especially popular in Taiwan - in the summer of 2014, when the Taiwanese branch of Yahoo polled netizens on who they'd most like to have a one-night stand with, she came first.



Mao HamasakiCredit: www.listal.com

Mao Hamasaki

With her flawless complexion and compelling dark eyes, some wonder why Mao Hamasaki (above; she's not related to Mao Inoue) has chosen to bare all in a series of hardcore adult movies, when her looks would assure her of roles in TV shows and mainstream films. Possibly she decided a record of her stunning physique should be made while she's still young (she was born on October 20, 1993 in Chiba, Greater Tokyo). Alternatively, she may lack the confidence to build a career in acting. Whatever the reason, many men are very grateful.

Nozomi SasakiCredit: www.oevrclock.netNozomi Sasaki

A high school dropout who started modeling at the age of 14, Sasaki has transitioned from conventional fashion modeling to the uniquely Japanese genre known in English as "gravure." Rather than be paid to promote clothes or makeup, gravure idols use their faces and bodies to sell large numbers of DVDs and photobooks. Gravure doesn't involve full nudity, although in many images - much like those which turned China's Luvian Ben Neng into a sensation - only a towel, or the skimpiest of bikinis, preserves the idol's modesty. Along the way, the 168cm-tall Sasaki has gained a reputation for being less than polite to some of her peers, calling more than one "fat." However, it's fair to say that compared to the buxom lasses who dominated gravure, she's very svelte.

Natume IrohaNatume IrohaCredit: Wikimedia Commons

Like Nana Ogura and Mao Hamasaki, Iroha opted for the quick returns promised by adult movies rather than the uncertainties of trying to break into mainstream entertainment. Born 30 years ago in Tokyo - and thus something of an industry veteran - the slender Iroha has delicate facial features that aren't typically Japanese, and in interviews she has mentioned encountering a few strangers who asked her where she learned to speak such perfect Japanese.