In this picture taken on October 9, 2017, Japanese bodybuilders (from L to R) Naoko Imamura, Eriko Shimizu, Satoko Yamanouchi, Tamako Atago and Toshie Yuzawa compete during the Japan bodybuilding championships in Tokyo. (AFP / Behrouz MEHRI)
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Glistening with sweat, Satoko Yamanouchi's biceps ripple and the veins in her neck throb as if about to pop as she strikes a fearsome pose at the Japan bodybuilding championships.A self-confessed gym rat, Yamanouchi is the poster girl for Japan's growing number of female bodybuilders, helping break down gender stereotypes in a country obsessed with the "kawaii" (cute) fluffiness of its ubiquitous pop culture.The number of bodybuilders registered with Japan's national federation has almost doubled over the past six years to around 3,000, with women making up 10 percent as part of a nationwide fitness boom, officials said.In ageing Japan, female bodybuilding is dominated by women in their forties and fifties, as many usually only start after their children have grown up.Other bodybuilding sub-genres have sprung up in Japan, including "bikini fitness" -- a category that has turned Yuri Yasui into a magazine cover girl.
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