The Japanese Art Of Making The Strangest Faces [Hengao]

The word “hengao” means “strange face” (変顔/へんがお) and it’s just about everything you’re probably imagining. Recently it’s gotten popularized even more by the comedian ワッキー (Wakki) who is not only good at making weird faces, but is also making a book on the Japanese crowdsourcing website

For a while, it seems, he’s been accepting requests from people on Twitter for various hengao requests. He responds with hengao pictures he takes of some of the requests, many of which are quite absurd. After a while he realized he was sitting on a hengao gold mine. “What if, just like Maru, I could turn these pictures into a book that people would buy?” he maybe asked himself. “But wait, I don’t want to have to pay for all that,” he possibly continued to think. “I know, let’s work together to fund this thing!” (all these quotes are completely made up, by the way).

So, he turned the very community-based hengao Twitter request thing into a community-based funding thing. Makes total sense to me, anyways. Enough about this for now, though. You’re here for the pictures, I bet. Let’s take a look at some of the funnier faces:

wakki hengao
I made up your emoticon

wakki hengao
Bald Guerrilla Face (probably not the most politically correct one here…)

wakki hengao
The face from your dream (that he tweeted about, I assume)

wakki hengao
The moment you became ranking #1 in the AKB election

wakki hengao
No caption

wakki hengao
Catching a cold, getting hay fever, and contracting conjunctivitis, all at once

wakki hengao
How thick is your bone density? Reply with a face.

If you’re interested in helping out with this project (I’ll probably throw some yens Wakki’s way after finishing this article), you can find it on the CampFire page: ペナルティのワッキーがみんなと作る変顔写真集、「フェイス」! There are some neat prizes for funding, some of which include the book itself, special messages and signatures, and at the higher levels meeting up with Wakki to spend half a day having your way with his face (as in, making it look however you want).


Wakki thanks you, I’m sure. Also, you should try to see if he’ll do a custom face for you. Request it to him on his Twitter account. Maybe your requested face will show up in his book, should it get funded. We sent Wakki a message too, and guess what? We got a response. I now present to you “Fugu eating bad tasting tofu” –

@tofugu フェイス!

Can I say that this is truly a work of art? I’m going to print out an 8×10 glossy.

Hengao Across The Internets

It’s not just Wakki who’s doing strange faces. This is obviously something bigger than just one person. People post up hengao pics because they’re hen, and funny, and people of course love them.





Of course, maybe some before and after shots will offer some insight as to how much of a change some of these people make. It’s like the opposite of those before and after makeup commercial shots, but a lot more extreme, I think. Here’s some really good ones that I found here.

before and after hengao





Some of these are really good, almost pro status, I’d say. But, Wakki is still the boss. There are some other “pros” out there, but they are pros in different ways (i.e. not famous for hengao). What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of examples of hengao in the celebrity scene. Sometimes it’s on purpose, sometimes it’s not. Jim Carrey, of course, has his own special page.


But, there’s Japanese celebrities as well. A lot of them, in fact. Between painful gameshows, comedic routines, feats of hengao strength, and just plain bad timing, there’s a plethora of hengao out there to get a chuckle out of. Idols, personalities, and actors, unite!


According to the subtitle she is “skilled at hengao”

Thing is, this is how Ramenz face always looks

Everything seems normal until… Aughh!

A new use for chopsticks / Pocky

Oh my gosh, so stretchy!

And, of course, you know a bit about Kyary from Kimokawaii. Not much else to say but kimo…kawaii… or just kimo.

As you can see, there’s plenty of celebrity hengao, both purposefully and not on purpose, all over the internet. It’s like a tabloid’s dream come true, except for it’s on purpose half the time.

Now It’s Your Turn To Hengao (For Prizes!)

Forever alone

So I’ve shown you all about Japanese “hengao.” I even did one for you to show you that it’s not thattt bad (see above, that Jabba the Hutt looking thing on the right is me). Now it’s your turn to give back, just as I have above (you’re welcome). But, you’re not just doing it for everyone’s amusement. You’re doing it for incredible prizes as well!

FIRST PLACE: Forever TextFugu Membership, 1 Year of WaniKani, and 1st Choice From The Prize Pool (see below)

First place will get you a TextFugu Forever account, 1 year of WaniKani (if you already have a WaniKani account, you can always use it after your current account expires), plus first choice from the prize pool, below. You can have one of three fabulous gifts, and you can get exactly the one you want. Is it Usopp and his giant hammer? Is it Wasabi KitKat Bars? Or is it Nara’s new and less-creepy mascot? Up to you.

SECOND PLACE: A Forever TextFugu Membership OR 1 Year Of WaniKani, and 2nd Choice From The Prize Pool

You can choose between TextFugu Forever or 1 Year of WaniKani. Then, you get second pickings at the prize pool, below.

THIRD PLACE: 3rd Choice From The Prize Pool

You’ll get whatever is left over in the prize pool. Who knows? Maybe you’ll be lucky and get what you wanted.

(Choose one from the prize pool)

To submit your entry, post an image into the comments below. You can attach an image via Disqus comments (what we use for comments, down below) or you can link to it after uploading it (to, say, imgur). The Tofugu people will each get 3 points to give to the various submissions. Then, on top of that, the top 3 vote getters (you can upvote comments, so upvote the ones you like) will get 3 total points for having the most votes, 2 for second most, and 1 for third most, meaning the earlier you get your hengao in the better. Some rules:

  • Post your submission images into the comments.
  • Submit it by July 21, 2013.
  • Winners will be decided the following Monday or Tuesday.
  • Be sure to put your actual email when leaving a comment / creating a Disqus account so we can contact you.
  • Yes, you may do multiple submissions, but no more than three please (also remember it could dilute your chances to get more votes on one pic!).
  • Before and after shots may gain you extra points.
  • International submissions A-OK.

I hope you have a good time coming up with submissions. I am really looking forward to seeing them :p

Also, big thanks to our new ace researcher extraordinaire Mami for her help on this article. She also wants to wish you good luck on this contest!

good luck mami!

Alright everyone, get to work on those hengao!

Update: Tofugu’s illustrious illustrator wants to join in on the fun.


Update: Winners have been chosen and notified (so if you weren’t notified, then… well… sorry!). We’ll show the winners in the newsletter, coming up at the end of the month, so look forward to it!

  • Cindi Goodeaux

    Who knew I was proficient in this art form?!? What fun!

  • Guest

    I’m fairly certain I injured myself pulling this face. Worth it.

  • Guest

    I’m fairly certain I inured myself while pulling this face. Worth it.

  • Rachel


  • 義満

    Koichi, are you going to crown whoever is the winner by how many likes their picture has? If so, then the winners are already chosen by this point.

  • ASH1337


  • Charlie

    I hope I’m not too late :/
    Why do I have a Poe action figure? Why don’t *you* have a Poe action figure?

  • Miguelangel

    O well…

  • Michelle Montaño

    I think my boyfriend thinks about breaking up with me every time I make this face.

  • kyle c

    Hoping for the booby prize so I can request 変顔 as a WaniKani vocab item :D Looking through this made for an enjoyable study break for my midterm in the morning… good luck guys!

  • simplyshiny

    Let’s try this!

  • Hanna Bink


  • 義満

    Dear Koichi or whoever is in charge of this ‘contest,’ I would like to point out that in the rules it says that the three people who have the most up votes will receive the prizes, however, I don’t think this is an entirely fair way to choose the winners. On the first day this article was posted, only a handful of people put their picture up, and they got a storm of likes, and really it has stayed that way since day one. Of course another load of people put their posts up (including myself), but none of them have been given as many likes as the others, and not solely because their picture may not be as good, but because they didn’t put theirs up on the first day, where everyone came and saw in awe! My point is, everyone came on day one and decided who was the winner then and there. And people usually only check out these articles once, and then just leave them be. I hope you read this and have a poll of some kind or just have a look and decide who’s the best instead of just looking at the three top posts and going with that. Not saying the top three are bad, but man, I just don’t think that judging system is quite right. But hey, if you’re still going to abide by that rule, then congrats BANE McNut, M4K0T0, and Mary Martin!

  • Guest

    Totally agree. Also, people who have a lot of facebook friends could just invite them and say “hey dudes, vote for me”. I think the judges should be the tofugu members only. Even if not everybody may agree with their opinion…

  • koichi

    There are also votes from 7 of us at Tofugu, and each of us get 3 votes to give. So, while #1 upvotes person does get 3 points, they can easily be outdone by Tofugu staff votes if they’re good and to our liking. The main point for allowing individuals to cast votes was to 1) allow you guys to have a partial say, and 2) get people to get their friends to come look at the post. Second one was more selfish on our part, but first one is the main reason.

  • 義満

    Oh sure, I completely caught that Mr. Koichi sir! No disrespect meant here, I just had hoped you would look at it that way (a double check, I’m sure). So, in the end, you are just going to kind of decide yourselves. Cool! Better that way I suppose. Really, I’m just writing this to say thank you for taking the time to read and I just wanted to say to you and everyone else at your team that you are, well, Awesome! Keep it up guys! I think I speak for everyone when I say this~!
    Best Regards
    Yoshi (Walter) Mitsu
    Take Care Mr. Fugu Lord *Bows*

  • 義満


  • koichi

    <3 <3

  • Nigga

    its Fint Lockwood guys!

  • MichaelaCaelum

    Pretty late, but my friend sent this to me and I just couldn’t resist!

  • Sittie Fairoza Alonto

    I am a little too late but well, all these make sense now. Hengao! Yay!

  • Sittie Fairoza Alonto

    I am a little too late but well, all these make sense now. Hengao! Yay! ^_^