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Published Friday, March 20, 2015

Odd Mods: Bagel Head

That is a saline injection into the forehead, with a depression in the middle. It looks like a bagel.

I spoke with Ryoichi Keroppy Maeda, a Japanese body modification enthusiast, participant and journalist. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps the term Bagel Head will. Most people in the body modification community know the term Bagel Head as a uniquely Japanese trend, because it was wildly reported in those ‘Crazy things people do in Japan’ type articles. It was actually invented by a Canadian.

So that’s a point for you Canada. We love you.

For those of you who are completely lost, the photo to the left is what “bagel head” refers to:

The reason...

Maeda is so closely associated with the Bagel Head concept is that he popularized it in Japan, where it became a genuine phenomenon in the Japanese body modification scene.

My questions to Maeda were not just about Bagel Head, but about what Bagel Head means to someone in Japan specifically, and about the viewpoints on body modification there. Maeda had a friend translate some of my questions and some of his answers, so things didn’t always turn out with perfect grammar. The interview below is slightly paraphrased for readability, but the meat of what’s discussed hasn’t been altered.It’s interesting...

And just for the record, he was super nice.


What got you interested in body modification?
In 1991, in Tokyo, I bought a book called “Modern Primitives”. I got my nipple piercing in 1992. Also the BME website by Shannon Larratt.

The bagel head concept, can you describe how you got involved with it?
It was invented by a guy from Canada, named Jerome Abramovitch. I saw it at ModCon in 2000, and I reported on it. I experienced it with him in 2003. I wrote about it in “BURST” magazine. A lot of the readers wanted to try it as well. I organized the first saline infusion (Bagel Head) party in 2007, when one of my photo exhibitions was opening. At the time, we had started to organize the team we called “THE Hookers” for supporting body art demonstrations, such as Bagel Head, suspensions, play piercing, etc.

 What are some of the reasons people give you for wanting to do the Bagel Head?
If suspension is a bird-like experience, then Bagel Head is a dolphin experience. People enjoy being freaks for just one day. In just one night, the body absorbs the saline and the forehead goes back to normal. [Note: I’m not sure what ‘dolphin experience’ means, whether that refers to dolphins having a blowhole, which is kind of like a Bagel Head, or if dolphins are just freaky?]

What is the Bagel Head experience, and how do you see it changing over time?
When we do the Bagel Head in Japan, we do it to 3-5 people at the place where we’re having the party. That’s how we started it in 2007. The saline injection is done slowly over two hours. People getting it done enjoy showing the transformation of their faces as part of the one day freak experience. People at the party enjoy seeing the faces change, especially when it’s done on pretty girls. Over the years we’ve done a lot of Bagel Heads, that’s not new for us. Now we are progressing more into suspensions and suspension techniques.

For the future, I am interested in trepanation, making a hole in the head. Over the years, I have reported on trepanation worldwide. I’m thinking of getting it done for myself in the future.

I’ve got...

A lot more great questions and answers from Ryoichi Keroppy Maeda, but I’m saving a bunch of them for a blog about the cultural impact of body modification in Japan, so you’ll just have to wait for it. It’s worth it.

And since a lot of words like ‘Bagel Head’ and ‘Suspension’ and ‘Trepanation’ have been bandied about here, I’ll just go ahead and add that you shouldn’t do any of these things without professional guidance and supervision.