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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Mr Poop Candy

Mr Poop Candy
Originally uploaded by timtak.
This is the wrapper of a "Mr Poop" wine gum. The wine gum itself is brown and shaped approximately like the yellow stool depicted on the wrapper.

The character, Mr. Poop, is well-known and well-liked amoung primary school children. I believe that there is a comic or television catoon depicting the character. The character speaks. He is a pile of poo. It is not clear whose poo.

"Unchi" is the word for faeces used, the etymology of which is the onomatopoeic word for the sound that one makes during a bowel movement "nnn." There is a theory that this originates in the same "nnn" meaning "omega" as spoken by the second of the Koma dogs that guard shrines.

A survey of what British and Japanese students would find difficult to talk about to their parents revealed no great difference in taboo regarding sex, but a considerable difference in taboo regarding faeces. When asked whether they discuss their faeces with their parents a majority of Japanese students said that they did. In the UK this figure was less than 10% and several respondents expressed amazement at the mere suggestion of discussing size or consistency with their parents.

The lack of repression towards faeces can also be observed in the construction of the traditional Japanese toilet where the stool was dropped into a trench, rather than down a hole, perhaps for pre-flush inspection. The squat required to use one of these toilets also ensures a much shorter nose to stool distance.

The origin of the greater degree of familiarity with faeces is perhaps:

1) That faeces were a valuable commodity as manure in Japan until the advent of chemical fertilisers. Unlike the traditional European wheat field, the rice paddy does not need to be rotated with livestock grazing, and application of livestock manure, in order to maintain production of rice. The fermentation process that takes place in the wet field ensures that the field can be used repetitively to produce rice or other grains sometimes twice a year. But some manure is required and, in the absence of livestock, this was provided by using human waste, as well as ash and vegetable peelings. The result of this was that faeces where not thrown away but stored, saved, and prized in rural Japan. Specialist tradesmen would go and buy faeces by the cart load in towns. Another result of the use of human faeces as manure was the prevalence of parasitic worms, and the need for rubber soled shoes.

2) The lack of a strong taboo on nakedness and sex. Perhaps part of the reason why faeces are taboo in the West is due to the proximity of the sex organs to the anus, the drear view Christianity has of the anything below the belt, or even of the body in general.

It should be noted that urination is also not as taboo as in the West, with "standing urination" (tachi-shon) being a common sight even on Tokyo Streets into the 1970's, "group urination" (tsure-shon) being a typical behaviour among young males, and door-less or opened windowed urinals being not uncommon to this day. Attitudes towards urination in Japan will be the subject of a separate post.

The wrapper is copyright of Tomoe Bussan Ltd.

The shape of the poop is similar to that used on posters encouraging dog owners to clean up after their dog.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.