When Constipation Becomes a National Pastime or Why Japan Is An Awful Warning to Us All

It is a cliché that certain generations and demographics in the UK are obsessed by their bowel movements. However, for what probably seem like tremendously good reasons of public health, Times Educational Supplement has revealed that Japan Toilet Institute has successfully introduced a campaign about their special interest into schools in Japan.

The Japan Toilet Institute is asking pupils to check their stools every day and identify which of four categories of poo they resemble against descriptions produced by the institute’s Li Unchi Labo (literally “Poo Lab”). Pupils then note the results in specially produced turd calendars, which have been delivered to schools…

Atsushi Kato, 36, arrived dressed as the “Poop Prince” and told the 80 pupils: “I’ve come to teach you how to do healthy poo.”

He informed pupils of three rules for producing “glittering” poos: drink a glass of water in the morning, eat breakfast and exercise.

Fans of Gilbert and Sullivan might be startled at the lack of wit and insight revealed by the lyrics of the “Poo Poo Song” (which may or may not be the ones to this popular toilet training video; there are more videos for those who yearn for more japanese fun toilet training videos).

A lively word that almost needs no translation is funzumari. Just to remind ourselves of british endeavours in this area, Dr Crippen of NHS BlogDoc has a wincing collection of stories about bowel movements (who can forget the tale of Irene and the role of her boarding school in winning her the Crippen Golden Suppository of the Year award (Thursday), Mrs Davidson and her stool diary (Friday) and Patricia and the Bristol Stool Form Scale). People of a certain generation in the US may recall the popularity of the constipation and laxative tantrums in advertising.

In the UK, there are some people who like a little science to spice-up their interest in bowel-related matters, even if the science is pseudoscience. Patrick Holford argues that IgG food allergies intolerance may contribute to IBS, constipation or other gut problems and he recommends IgG food intolerance testing. Holford cleaves to this explanation despite the current dearth of supporting clinical evidence for the involvement of IgG in diagnosing food intolerance.

In Japan, dietary explanations revolve around lack of hydration (related to shyness about using lavatories in some circumstances), low residue diets, the high cost of fruit in some regions and even a higher intake of japanese or chinese tea. Cultural differences are fascinating. In Japan, it is commonly thought that some constipation may be attributed to social inhibition and the disinclination to use public bathrooms or to void the bowel or bladder at home if other people are within earshot: however, Japan is acknowledged as the leading-edge of bathroom plumbing although there is still a surprising number of homes that depend upon the honey wagon and there must be a certain amount of social disinhibition in some areas relating to this or the popularity of the golden poop cellphone charm seems even more unaccountable, likewise a recent museum exhibition that is dedicated to poop.

Somehow, Luis Buñuel’s Le Fantôme de la liberté is seeming less surreal.




Filed under children, Holford, patrick holford

3 responses to “When Constipation Becomes a National Pastime or Why Japan Is An Awful Warning to Us All

  1. Wulfstan

    I always thought that the average japanese home was bursting at the seams with hygiene-related gadgetry so learning about the honey wagon is an eye-opener.

    I recently spent some time with a niece and nephew who did nothing but point out the defecation of sheep to all and sundry. I shudder at the thought of a similar lab ever being introduced into british schools even if it would be a way of stimulating interest in scientific observation and record-keeping.

  2. How does one say “Too much information” in Japanese? :D

  3. Wulfstan

    I came across this book and thought of this post.

    The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters.

    I doubt I’ll be requesting it but even the synopsis has some interesting material.

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