I’m going to go out on a limb and blame video games and gangsta rap for this one too.

Among the simplest joys in life is the humble balloon. What better way to spend a lazy afternoon that gently thwacking one around the living room with that strangely yet undeniably soothing “pom” sound.

But you may be saddened to learn that for some this highway to happiness is under serious construction with delays for miles, for these people do not possess the ability to blow up a balloon on their own. Even more tragic is how widespread this problem was recently discovered to be.

▼ This affliction causes some to lash out at society

It all started when a second-year high school student using the name Mifuyu wrote into NHK’s teenage talk show R No Hosoku asking for their help with a personal problem.

“I look stupid around my friends when I can’t blow up a balloon, so I want to be able to do it!”

Surprised by this problem, the show took to the streets of Tokyo to find out if not being able to blow up a balloon was actually a thing. They asked 100 teenage girls to blow up balloons and found that 31 of them could not do it.

Granted this isn’t the most scientific of surveys, but that’s probably more resources than anyone has ever put into the topic of schoolgirl balloon inflation in the past. So, we’re going to have to go with R No Hosoku as a leading authority on the topic for now and assume that 31 percent of high school girls in Japan cannot blow up a balloon.

This of course leads to the question of why?

They don’t know to stretch the balloon first

By tugging on the balloon with your hands before attempting to blow it up, you can loosen the elasticity of the material thus requiring less lung power to blow it up. This may seem like common sense, but it’s often things like this that no one teaches people because everyone just assumes they already know.

Regardless, even after loosening up her balloons, Mifuyu was still unable to inflate hers. This means there must be other causes.

It’s all in the lungs

Staying firmly in the land of common sense, an inability to blow up balloons would seem to stem from poor lung capacity. However, since we don’t usually see Japanese high school girls working the coal mines and smoking a pack of Marlboros a day, it would be odd if nearly a third of them had substandard lungs.

▼ Here is a diagram of a healthy human lung… or is that an unhealthy lung? They’re pretty gross either way.

Sure enough, when the program measured Mifuyu’s lungs against someone who could blow up a balloon, they turned out to be exactly the same at 2,200 milliliters. So this means there must be some other factor at play.

Actually it’s all in the mouth

At a loss, the program consulted Miruyu’s dentist to make sure there were no abnormalities in her mouth that would cause her balloon related handicap. He confirmed that she had no problems with her jaw, meaning that her problem must simply be the muscles in her mouth.

It turned out that when Mifuyu blew into the balloon the air followed the path of least resistance, namely her flimsy cheek muscles causing them to comically puff out. This also greatly diminishes the force of the air, leaving insignificant pressure to expand the balloon. However, when a friend placed their hands firmly over Mifuyu’s cheeks, she could successfully inflate a balloon.

And so, apparently the mouths of teenage girls in Japan are so weak they are defeated by a child’s toy. It’s a little surprising if you’ve ever heard a group of teen girls talking away about the latest David Cassidy album jacket, or whatever it is they go on about. They certainly do seem to have jowls strong enough to chew through sheet metal, but it just goes to show that you can’t judge a book by it’s audio version.

“I don’t know why other people seem to enjoy these so much. It just tastes like air…”

However, this bodes poorly for the future of Japan if the bleak post-apocalyptic world of air bladder warfare predicted in the grim NES game Balloon Fight ever occurs.

Source: NHK/R No Hosoku
Top image: Wikipedia/D Sharon Pruitt
Inset images: Wikipedia/Wittylama, Wikipedia, Pakutaso