International Medical Journal Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 454 - 458 , August 2020
'Kiss Is Magic Medicine': A Study on Humorous Definitions on
Kissing by Japanese University Students
Sachi Sri Kantha1), Yuri Matsui2)
Objective: Two fold. (1) to quantitate what percentage of university entering freshmen in the 2nd decade of the 21st century in
Japan, have engaged in romantic kissing. (2) To investigate humor sense in the personal definition of 'kiss', as comprehended by
the Japanese undergraduate students.
Design: Two prospective, inter-related questionnaire studies were conducted on 366 freshmen and sophomores (148 men and
218 women) aged 18-20 years, from a national university located in the Tokai region of Japan. Study 1, elicited 'yes-no' respons-
es to the question, 'Have you engaged in kissing a romantic partner?'. Study 2, solicited a personal definition to the question,
'What is a kiss?', within 5 minutes. Both studies were conducted in class room setting.
Results: 41.8% and 39.9% for men and women respectively answered 'Yes' to having kissed a romantic partner. Humorous,
idiosyncratic definitions on kiss by 29 men and 24 women students respectively are presented. 'Communication' and 'mind' are
two keywords which were incorporated in such humorous definitions. Among the 53 emanations, what we consider as one of the
best is included in the title of this report.
Conclusions: The data collected lead us to the hypothesis that among young couples in Japan, mutual kissing by romantic
partners may be considered as the idiomatic 'Crossing the Rubicon' line towards sexual intercourse. This hypothesis deserves
independent verification in the future.
communication, gender, humor, kiss, love, mind
Received on October 20, 2019 and accepted on December 9, 2019
1) Toyotamakita 2-2-8, Nerima-ku, Tokyo 176-0012, Japan
2) Toushin-cho, 1 chome, 226, Obu City, Aichi 474-0073, Japan
Correspondence to: Sachi Sri Kantha
Since Shinichi Asayama (1908-1978) published his studies on
Japanese students in 1970s1,2) an increased sexual awareness among
Japanese teenagers since 1980s have been reported by previous investi-
gators3-11). Nevertheless, other than scribblings by journalists (Fig.1) and
travel writers, published studies on kissing behavior among young
Japanese seems very limited12-16). Among these, studies by Hajime
Kamata14,15) on allergy-alleviating function of kiss in Japanese patients
have not been replicated until now; they also gained a dubious honor of
being recognized by the 2015 Ig Nobel Prize for medicine17-19). Kamata
is recognized as one who runs an allergy clinic in Neyagawa, Osaka pre-
This study is a sequel to the previous report by the first author16).
Objectives of this study were two fold. First, to quantitate the percent-
age of university entering freshmen in the 2nd decade of the 21st century
in Japan, who have engaged in romantic kissing. Secondly, to elucidate
humor sense in the personal definition of 'kiss' given by Japanese under-
SUBJECTS AND METHODS
The subjects of this study were 366 freshmen and sophomores (148
men and 218 women) aged 18-20 years, from a national university
located in the Tokai region of Japan. First author collected the data
between 2013 and 2015, during the class period on scientific English he
taught to students in Medicine, Nursing, Engineering, Education and
Applied Biological Science disciplines.
Study 1, elicited 'yes-no' responses to the question, 'Have you
engaged in kissing a romantic partner?'. Anonymity was assured for this
Study 2, solicited a personal definition to the question, 'What is a
kiss?', within 5 minutes. Students were requested to identify themselves
for this study. Only volunteer responses were included.
Both studies were conducted in class room setting. To partially
overcome the procedural handicap in gathering empirical data on kiss-
ing related opinion, a not-so devious method was adopted for study 2.
As a first step, homework answers to questions based on interesting
brief reports which appeared in peer reviewed journals like the New
England Journal of Medicine20) and Nature21), on the theme of kissing
were first solicited. Based on high feedback collected from the students,
in the second step a follow up question 'Write a definition of kiss in
your own words' was asked as a part of class exercise.
Study 1: The number of men and women students who answered the
question affirmatively of having kissed a romantic partner is shown in
Table 1. 62 among the 148 men students and 87 among the 218 students
surveyed answered 'yes' to the kissing experience with a romantic part-
ner. Percentage wise, these results translate into 41.8% and 39.9% for
men and women respectively. As representative samples, individual
opinions of 8 women students on analyzing the data presented in Table
C 2020 Japan Health Sciences University
& Japan International Cultural Exchange Foundation
Kantha S. S. et al. 455
1, is given in Table 2. Surprise, relief and jealousy were the dominant
sentiments expressed by these 8 students. Two lamented that as they
don't have a boyfriend, they couldn't experience the kiss sentiment.
Equally, men students also expressed similar sentiments, due to not hav-
ing a girlfriend on their own (Data not shown).
Study 2: To score the valid and invalid response to the question
asked, if one or more among the 7 keywords (touch, pressure, lips,
token, affection, greeting, reverence) mentioned in the dictionary defini-
tion for a kiss22) is included in the answer that particular response is
accepted as a valid one. Acceptable equivalents of the keywords (Table
3) are also considered as valid. While the Oxford English Dictionary
defines a kiss is, 'A touch or pressure given with the lips in token of
affection, greeting or reverence; a salute or caress given with the
lips'.22), we were offered humorous idiosyncratic definitions on kiss by
men and women undergraduate students.
A cumulative total of 53 (14.4%) among 366 students provided such
definitions of kiss which largely ignored the 7 keywords stated above.
Though some responses did incorporate one or few keywords or their
acceptable equivalents (Table 3), they missed the essence of the conven-
tional definition. These humorous definitions of students are presented
in Tables 4 (by 29 men) and 5 (by 24 women) respectively.
'Communication' (8 among 53) was the main keyword that ranked high-
est among these humorous definitions. Another keyword that was
included was 'mind' or its variant 'mental' (5 among 53). Of equal inter-
est is that only 5 among 53 students could mention 'lip', the main organ
used in kissing, in their definitions. Definitions with a word economy
(only 3 words) included: "Cause of allergy" or "Risk of allergy", "soft
and dynamic", "Kiss is pure", "Kiss is touching", and "I don't know" or
"I can't understand".
During the survey period, 40% of the freshmen and sophomore men
and women students, aged under 20 years had experienced kissing with
a romantic partner. The 'yes' answer for kissing a romantic partner was
nearly the same for both sexes. A Prime Minister's Office survey finding
in 1983 (4,990 male and female high school and college students in
seven major Japanese cities) found that 50% of boys and girls had expe-
rienced kissing at the age of 193). We cite two reasons for an underesti-
mate in our study. First, false negative responses, especially from
women students, even though anonymity was assured. Secondly, as
majority of our sample belonged to the freshmen students who had
entered the university recently, the lower estimate can also explained by
the fact that their positive kissing experience was predominantly gained
during their junior high school and high school years.
For comparative data, Hughes et al.23) reported that in an American
university > 99% of college students (1,041 respondents) answered
affirmatively for romantic kissing. However the age distribution of this
study sample varied differently: 93.6% (in the range of 18-24 years) and
6.4% ('25 and above' years). The inferences of Hughes et al.23) were, (1)
women place more importance on kissing as a mate assessment device
and as a means of initiating, maintaining and monitoring the current sta-
tus of their relationship with a long term partner. (2) men appear to use
kissing to increase the likelihood of having sex. In addition, Regan et
al.24) had reported on the first kiss experience in a convenience sample
of 356 university students (169 men and 187 women, average age 24.9
years). It should be noted that the studies of Hughes et al.23) and Regan
et al.24) were conducted in the USA. Unfortunately, due to institutional
Table 1. Freshmen and Sophomore Students answering 'Yes or
No' to the question: 'Have you engaged in kissing a
Semester Men Students Women Students
Total 'Kissing-Yes' Total 'Kissing-Yes'
number number number number
Fall 2013 6 2 20 7
Spring 2014 57 27 53 18
Fall 2014 19 8 39 14
Spring 2015 49 16 74 31
Fall 2015 17 9 32 17
Grand Total 148 62(41.8%) 218 87(39.9%)
*Heterosexual kissing only. Students belonged to the Faculties of Medicine-Nursing,
Engineering, Applied Biological Sciences, Education and Regional Studies.
Table 2. Opinions of 8 Women Students on inferring the data pre-
sented in Table 1
Student code Opinion of Women Students
Wa I think this result is surprise and relief. I do not yet have
what I do kiss. Because I have no boyfriend. I want to meet
a destined partner.
Wb I think that it is involved with a sense of value from kissing
among Japanese. The fact which the frequency of kissing in
Japan is overwhelmingly few with their partner is well
known, because Japanese tend to do fewer physical contact
than foreigner. I hear that there are many types of kisses
among foreigners. For example, the kiss in the back of hand
means respect, the kiss in forehead means friendship, the
kiss in the cheek means kindness and the kiss in the lip
means love. But such difference is not expressed in Japan.
Everyone doesn't know meaning about part of body.
Wc I've never had any boyfriend. So these results made me very
Wd I think when we have a romantic partner, we want to kiss
the partner. But it is essential for me to kiss in future.
We In my case, the number of kiss times in a day cannot be
counted. For example, greeting, waiting at a stoplight and so
on. Romantic kiss provides happiness among all things
Wf When I looked the data first time, I was surprised. Because
who have kissed are more than I expected. I envy them but I
feel little jealous of them. In my class, there are some peo-
ple who have a boyfriend. I'm jealous of them too.
Wg Girls tend to fall in love easily...I'd like to get a romantic
Wh Maybe, women think kiss is signal of love, stronger than
men...the attitude toward love is different to each individual.
Table 3. Seven Keywords in the dictionary definition* of 'kiss'
and their equivalents
Keywords Acceptable Equivalents
Affection love, good will, kindly feeling
Lips edges of opening of mouth
Pressure continuous force
Reverence bow, curtsy, obeisance
Token evidence, sign, symbol,
Kiss Is Magic Medicine
Table 5. Humorous Idiosyncratic definitions on kiss by Women
Student code Humorous, Idiosyncratic Definition*
Fa I think it is the way when we check the love
Fb Kiss is touching
Fc Risk of allergy
Fd It is cause of reaction of allergy
Fe Words takes some words telling love; on the other hand,
kiss needs no words but love can pass!
Ff I can't understand
Fg I think it is very excellent
Fh First, there are 2 people. And they bound their lips each
other. This is a kiss.
Fi I think kiss is part of the sex. Kiss is communication. To
kiss is love with each other.
Fj To express 'love' through acting only.
Fk In my opinion, kiss is the way to express the love. Without
speaking anything, we can tell the love.
Fl It is touching to something by mouth. It cause allergy to
Fm Kiss is an important way to convey love that language can't
convey. When kissing, I am happy every time.
Fn I think kiss is skinship and we kiss each other because we
tell each other that I love you each other. I think kiss is a
good action, but we have to select who we kiss with. And I
consider that we must not kiss with people we don't like
Fo Communication with important person.
Fp A kiss is communication. If you kiss with a person that you
love (your friends, your mother, your father, your girlfriend,
your boyfriend, and so on), you are happy and you can
understand their mind.
Fq There are nothing between lip and lip.
Fr It is that lovers place mouth to mouth to check their love.
It's a special thing.
Fs Pile mouth with mouth.
Ft I think my definition of what is a kiss is forgetting [hand-
ing?] care to that person.
Fu Need to meet face to face; need the will to kiss; need a little
Fv Kiss is communicate with partner on feeling in partner's
Fw It is kind of communications between lovers. Not only
humans, animals can feel relax mental to feel other's tem-
perature. I think kissing is like this.
Fx When a couple kiss they realize other mind. So, a kiss con-
nect their senses.
*To highlight the human angle, grammatical errors are reproduced as in the original answers,
without any corrections. The spelling errors have been silently corrected; a percentage of
Japanese students have difficulty between identifying (i) alphabet 'I' and 'r' (ii) 'th' sound.
Thus, lips are misspelled as 'rips' or 'libs' pleasure is written as 'pressure'. Also, mouth gets
twisted to 'mouse'.
policies on "student privacy" in Japan, it would be a hassle to elicit such
type of information from our study sample.
Student Wb's opinion of the idea of a kiss among Japanese (Table
3) is pertinent. The practice of kissing among Europeans and Americans
is largely derived from the distinction of three types of kisses: oscula
(friendly kiss), basia (love kiss) and suavia (passionate kiss) by the
Romans25,26). But, contemporary Japanese practice a hybrid version of
the last two types, and exclude the first type of the Romans.
Among the humorous definitions collected in our data, few focused
on the negative consequences when a kiss is shared, such as
(1) "Kiss is exchanging each [other's] virus",
(2) "It is bacterial exchange",
(3) "One person's lip touch other person's skin. Then, the other per-
son have allergy."
(4) "It is [a] cause of reaction of allergy"
(5) "It is touching to something by mouth. It cause allergy to kissed
These responses reflected on the influence of homework exercise
(food allergies and kissing20)) given as a prerequisite to elicit the person-
al definition on kiss. One male student's (Mr --- Table 4) definition
Table 4. Humorous Idiosyncratic definitions on kiss by Men
Student code Humorous, Idiosyncratic Definition*
Ma Kiss is a sacrifice to know each others' depth.
Mb I want to do this.
Mc Behavior to check what opposite [sex] think of me.
Md Cause of allergy
Me In my opinion, kissing is attractive and [to be] afraid [of].
Mf I don't know (*w*)
Mg Kiss is exchanging each virus.
Mh I can feel love by my girlfriend and be happy.
Mi Kiss means fitting others' lips. This event use much energy.
But it is very beautiful. It involves light and deep such lov-
Mj The couple can understand about each other. But I can't do a
kiss because I don't have a girlfriend!!!
Mk Kiss --- a communication with lips. We don't need words.
We don't need gesture.
Ml Kiss is heartful. Kiss is wonderful. Kiss is No.1.
Mm It is one of skinship. And it is one of communication. It
checks taste of mouth.
Mn I think that kiss is a important thing. I use a kiss when I
express to love person. If there isn't a kiss, people may feel
Mo A kiss is a conduct that use all of five senses. Not only hap-
tics, if one of them is lacking, this is not a kiss.
Mp Kiss is one of high level communications. It can check the
affection. Single man can't [do] this action.
Mq It's the situation that one's lip is touched to another person's
lip. Confirm each other's love. All humans' dream. Kiss
can't [be] expressed with word.
Mr To become a baby, in exchange of having mother's milk.
Ms A kiss is one way to show your mind.
Mt A kiss is that lovers do. So I think it is pleasure, and it can
confirm to love. It is healing one's mind.
Mu Kiss is part of medical.
Mv It is bacterial exchange
Mw Kiss is magic medicine.
Mx When I kiss, I feel a sense of bliss. I definitely say that
heaven exists when one kiss.
My Soft and dynamic
Mz Definition? It is nothing. If I think a kiss, it is a kiss.
Maa The mouth stick to the part of body.
Mab Kiss is pure.
Mac One person's lip touch other person's skin. Then, other per-
son have allergy.
*To highlight the human angle, grammatical errors are reproduced as in the original
answers, without any corrections. The spelling errors have been silently corrected;
a percentage of Japanese students have difficulty between identifying (i) alphabet 'I' and
'r', (ii) 'th' sound. Thus, lips are misspelled as 'rips' or 'libs', pleasure is written
as 'pressure'. Also, mouth gets twisted to 'mouse'.
Kantha S. S. et al. 457
reflected the sentiments of Freud that kissing is an equivalent to an
infant's 'pleasure sucking --- a rhythmic repetition of sucking contact
with the mouth (the lips), wherein the purpose of taking nourishment is
excluded...the first and most important activity in the child's life, the
sucking from the mother's breast (or its substitute)'.26,27)
What we considered as the best among the 53 humorous definitions
was, "A kiss is a conduct that use all of five senses. Not only haptics. If
one of them is lacking, this is not a kiss." In this particular definition,
incorporation of sight, sound, smell, touch and taste senses in the execu-
tion of a kiss and the bliss it provides to both partners is an obvious bio-
logical truth garbed with humor. Though it may not be in the same
league of the humorous definition for kiss offered by the 19th century
French poet Paul Verlaine ('the fiery accompaniment on the keyboard of
the teeth of the lovely songs which love sings in a burning heart')25), con-
sidering the fact that the definition of student Mo was written within 5
minutes (Table 4) makes it an unusual expression of an idea.
Limitations of this study deserve mention as well. First, this is a sin-
gle institution survey, without any funding for detailed experimental
design. Secondly, this study is of exploratory nature due to vigilance
exercised by the institutional bureaucracy that remains conservative and
timid for research of this nature. Though there may be few exceptions28),
as a rule the university bureaucracy in Japan is scared of negative pub-
licity and hardly offer support for studies related to student sexuality29).
Thirdly, by preference, statistical testing of the collected data on the ver-
bal humor on kissing was omitted for more than one reason, especially
the sample size. This may upset those who commit themselves to statis-
tical rigor. Despite these limitations, the data presented in this study
present a key-hole view of the first step in how young romantic partners
of opposite sex begin their negotiating path towards achieving consen-
sual coitus in Japan.
Figure 1 (A). Two newspaper filler items that appeared in 1995
weeklies, (A) Spa and (B) Aera, on the exhibition of
public kissing by young couples in Japan. Source:
Mainichi Daily News (Tokyo), April 23, 1995 and
October 8, 1995.
Figure 1 (B).
Kiss Is Magic Medicine
The data collected lead us to a hypothesis that among young cou-
ples in Japan, mutual kissing by romantic partners may be considered as
the idiomatic 'Crossing the Rubicon' line towards sexual intercourse.
What Alex Comfort wrote, "unlike a man, she has two mouths to kiss
with, and some women use them beautifully" in the entry on kisses in
his popular book 'The Joy of Sex'30), may apply metaphorically for the
focus young Japanese women place on kisses. Our hypothesis deserves
independent verification in the future.
We thank all the students of the Gifu University, who contributed to
the data collection. This study was conducted when the first author was
affiliated to the Center for General Education, Gifu University, as an
associate professor from 2010 to 2016. The second author was an under-
graduate student, who entered the Faculty of Engineering during the
study period in 2014.
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