What Causes Sanpaku Eyes?

Living beings possess an eye and a visual system, allowing them to glimpse and process visual elements and perform photoreactions independently of vision. The eyes catch glow and transform it into electro-chemical impulses in neurons.

The eyes have an iris, the colored part structurally located in the middle of the eyes encircled by upper and lower eyelids with no scleral (the white portion) shown above or beneath. However, in Oriental Medicine, when the white part becomes visible above or beneath the eyes, it denotes certain psychological or physical inequalities in the body.

What are sanpaku eyes?

In Japanese, “Sanpaku” translates as “three whites.” The word was first introduced in the mid-1960s by George Ohsawa. The term “Sanpaku” refers to eyes in which white space is more expansive above or beneath the iris.

Generally, the white portion of the eye (the sclera) is visible from two sides — left and right, but in some people, the sclera is visible from three sides — left, right, upper side, or lower side.

In simple language, sanpaku eyes refer to the small iris; therefore, it only covers about 2/3 or less of the vertical axis of the eye. Thus, a person with sanpaku eyes looks straight, and you can clearly see the sclera (the white portion of the eyes) at the bottom or top of the iris. Sanpaku can be seen with one or both eyes.

What causes Sanpaku eyes?

Some people are born with sanpaku eyes, but there are also many other facts, and recent developments have been recorded for sanpaku eyes.

Scientifically sanpaku eyes are called bilateral deviation, caused by a variety of factors such as fatigue, endocrine imbalance, aging, physical trauma, overweight, anorexia, congenital craniofacial anomalies, diabetes, depression, inadequate blood circulation to the head over time, high blood pressure, a slouched posture that renders to improper eye muscle balance, and side effects of plastic surgery (blepharoplasty or liposuction).

Other researchers assert that sanpaku eyes are a sign of psychopathy because of the strange pupil appearance. However, the study has not been limited to covering only negative emotions.

In Asian countries, especially in Japan, sanpaku is associated with one’s destiny and also indicates a physical and/or mental imbalance. There are, however, no exact studies or proofs for this.

What are the types of sanpaku eyes?

According to Japanese traditional beliefs, sanpaku eyes are generally categorized into two types — Yang and Yin Sanpaku.

  • Yang Sanpaku

Yang sanpaku refers to the sclera (the white portion), which is clearly visible above the iris. In Japanese superstition, the Yang Sanpaku condition indicates murderers, psychopathic individuals, or individuals filled with anger.

  • Yin Sanpaku

Yin Sanpaku refers to the sclera (the white area) that is clearly visible beneath the iris. According to Japanese superstition, the Yin Sanpaku condition indicates physical imbalance in individuals who are users or alcoholics or indulge in sugar-rich foods. Some even say Yin Sanpaku individuals mostly turned into mukbangers (a live-streamed eating show where the host binge-eats).

What does the research say?

The sclera (the white part of the eye) in a living being is located in the middle position. Medically speaking, a ‘scleral show’ is when the sclera appears unusual. Thus, it is termed an’ upper scleral show when the sclera is displayed more above the iris.’ It is termed a ‘ lower scleral show when the sclera is displayed below the iris.’

When the sclera appears unusual in medical terms, it is most likely due to various medical conditions rather than an articulation of an individual personality trait.

Sanpaku eyes beliefs in diverse cultures

Some people who belong to a religious group or cult culture are more superstitious. Despite advancements in medicine, science, and technology, some cultures still follow ancient methods to predict the unknown.

Predictions such as palm reading, astrology, face reading, numerology, and other prediction methods are widespread in some Asian countries, mainly Japan and China. However, in these countries, the concept of the Sanpaku eyes remains controversial to this day.

All anime series or comics based in Asian countries (primarily Japanese) are characterized by how their eye structure affects their personality. For instance, Yota from K-Project, Dosu Kinuta from Naruto, and Takasu Ryuuji from Toradora have sanpaku eyes and portray negative characters.

How to categorize an individual who has Sanpaku Eyes?

Sanpaku eyes are easy to recognize. It is noticeable when an individual’s sclera (the white portion of the eyes) is more apparent. Sanpaku eyes age the structure of the eyes. It is sometimes mistaken that sanpaku eyes create a sad, scary or surprising appearance even when they do not.

Renowned people with Sanpaku eyes

  • Adolf Hitler

One of history’s most brutal dictators, Adolf Hitler, had Yin sanpaku eyes (the white of the eye is clearly visible beneath the iris). Hitler was a Nazi German leader accountable for World War II, which led to the deaths of more than 40,000,000 people. He is still one of the subjects in various books and case studies.

  • Abraham Lincoln

The 16th US President Abraham Lincoln’s left eye appeared to be looking higher than his right as he was having strabismus (abnormal eyes alignment). As a result, he couldn’t look straight. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865.

  • John F Kennedy (JFK) and Robert Kennedy (RFK)

John F. Kennedy, the 35th American president, was assassinated early in his presidency on November 22, 1963. He had Yin-Sanpaku eyes, but only on the left side. Journalists used to refer to his eyes as exotropia, the lazy eye.

John F. Kennedy’s brother Robert Kennedy was also assassinated six years later, on June 6, 1968, after his elder brother. He served as U.S. Senator in New York from January 1965 till his death.

  • Billie Eilish

The famous American singer Billie Eilish has sanpaku eyes. However, fans found her eyes one of her most attractive features. Some people believe that her sanpaku eyes are one of the reasons why her songs are too deep and depressing. Her clinical depression, however, explains why she writes such emotional and profound songs. Regardless, she is one of the top paid singers in America and toured her four-times platinum debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” when she was 16.

Can one treat Sanpaku’s eyes?

With advancements in technology, various surgical treatments are available to reduce unusual eye appearances due to sanpaku eyes and achieve a more proportional look.

Hyaluronic Acid Fillers (HA fillers)

Hyaluronic Acid Fillers, also known as HA fillers, are dermatological treatments for beautification. Hyaluronic Acid Fillers can help enhance the eye’s scleral show in parallel with the medial corner of the eyes, by expanding the local tissue, adding volume to the area and extending the lower eyelid lateral corner.

Plastic Surgery

A certified plastic surgeon can help with sanpaku eye treatment and perform the appropriate surgical procedure to balance the scleral show. In order to rule out any undying treatments of diseases causing the scleral show, it is necessary to get a thorough examination as it is crucial to weigh the risks and benefits before undergoing surgery.

Final Thoughts

There aren’t any reliable data or exact sources that claim how rare sanpaku eyes are; however it doesn’t seem that the abnormal sclera position is rare. Due to varied reasons, even normal eyes can turn into sanpaku eyes due to medical conditions or physical trauma.

Some people believe that sanpaku eyes are striking because they look different and rare. However, at the same time, some still follow the Japanese traditional beliefs that sanpaku eyes are a sign of deception.


Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I’ve been writing articles for more than 10 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I’m currently writing for many websites and newspaper. All my ideas come from my very active lifestyle. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. In all my years as computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. I believe that any information should be free, we want to know more every day because we learn everyday. You can contact me on our forum or by email at: info@sind.ca.

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