A new television series has shed light on the bizarre Japanese trend for ‘bagel heads’. The extraordinary look, which is created by injecting saline into the forehead, then pressing in the centre of the swollen area with a thumb, is a hit on the country’s underground body modification scene. The dramatic results of the two-hour treatment last just 16-24 hours, after which the saline is absorbed by the body and the forehead reduces back to its normal size.m The process is revealed on National Geographic’s Taboo, where three people are seen undergoing the treatment in Tokyo.
It shows John, Marin and Scorpion having a large needle, attached to a saline drip, inserted into their foreheads. The practitioner administering the treatment, Asami, is heard saying: ‘You really need to do it the right way, to reduce the risks.’
The sensation is evidently uncomfortable. As it punctures the skin, John says: ‘Ooh… That’s a needle going into my head… Ooh.’
Once fully inserted, the outline of the needle is clearly visible under the surface of the skin, and the saline slowly begins filling the forehead. At this point, John describes feeling ‘a slight stinging sensation’.
He then reports a trickling feeling so intense, he is convinced that the liquid is falling down the outside of his face, asking the room: ‘Is there something dripping down my head? … I can really feel it in there, trickling down.’
After an hour or so, the brave trio’s foreheads look significantly swollen, and they appear to have become accustomed to the needle in his head.
‘Right now it’s kind of a relaxing sensation, kind of tingly, and also a kind of building pressure that’s kind of slow and steady that kind of feels like it’s putting me to sleep,’ John says.
Over the course of two hours, around 400cc of saline is transfused into each forehead. Once it has reached the desired size, the practitioner removes the needle, and presses his thumb into the centre of the swelling. When the thumb on his forehead is removed John looks stunned, and the room breaks into a round of applause.
‘Oh sweet buttery bagels – I’m impressed!’ he exclaims. ‘I look delicious!’
The finished look is deemed ‘cute’ by Marin, who sits beside him. Once she and Scorpion, have also had their needles removed and thumbprint made, the trio admire their new looks with delight. The trend was initially sparked by the artist Keroppy, according to an interview in Vice last year.
He told the magazine how he came across it in Toronto, Canada, at the extreme body modification convention Modcon in 1999.
‘I happened to meet Jerome, who was the person who pioneered saline infusions,’ he explained. ‘We stayed in contact, then eventually I experienced saline with him in 2003 and he gave me permission to bring it to Japan.
‘I set up a team in Tokyo to administer infusions for other people. That’s been going since 2007.’
He said fans of the procedure enjoy ‘saline parties’ about twice a year, though some people will take their ‘bagel head’ to clubs and fetish parties. The saline injections can be done on any part of the body – some people have even had ‘scrotal infusions’, he revealed – but for the most part, it is just the forehead.
On its (thankfully) short-term effects, Keroppy joked: ‘We enjoy being freaks for the night!’
Taboo Season 9 premieres 4th January 2013 at 11pm (repeated at various timings) on National Geographic Channel (Starhub Ch. 411 and SingTel mio TV Ch. 201).