Monday, January 03, 2011

Things I learned in Japan: everybody poops.

So, silly me forgot that all the Christmas fun doesn't end until after New Years, when my family has it's final get together, which means I'm not doing the Christmas haul until after I've gotten everything and can take pictures of it all.

**Note: this post discusses bodily functions, which some cultures might find inappropriate and some people might find gross. However, this is a cultural difference I definitely felt was worth discussing. Please bear with me!

I was often sick in Japan, from various colds, being misdiagnosed with the swine flu, and, needing a root canal(expect posts on all of these, haha!).

I had never had an major mouth problems, but I did have braces for a year and a half (from the age of 15 til I was almost 17). I take good care of my smile, especially since it's now worth over 5k, hahaha!

One day my face was swollen. My mouth hurt and I could barely eat or drink anything. I thought I was going to die. Little did I know, after I got a root canal it'd all get better, but that's besides the point.

While waiting for my host mother to return the nurse's call, she had me fill out the mandatory form for visiting the office.
At my school, when you went to the nurse's office, you had to fill out a form that asked the following questions:
Class you came from.
Your symptoms.
What you ate for breakfast.
How many hours your slept.
If you pooped this morning.

Yes, you read correctly. It asked you if you pooped, and if it seemed abnormal, to describe it.

At first I thought I read the kanji wrong, but after double, triple checking my electronic dictionary, I realized it was in fact asking me if I had pooped first thing this morning. 

I was shocked. In America, or at least, where I live, we don't talk about poop. It's not that we absolutely cannot mention it, but I guess we just figure it a personal thing and once you no longer need assistance in the bathroom, if it's normal, we just don't discuss it.

But there I was, in Japan, being asked about my poop cycle.

I am a very curious person, and even though poop is not something I prefer to talk about, I simply had to know why I was being asked this.(how un-Japanese of me, asking why~ haha) My nurse explained to me that, apparently, pooping first thing in the morning is very important for your body to get rid of all the toxins and waste left over from the day before.

She said that when people don't release this waste, it can make their stomach hurt, so when students come in complaining of their stomach hurting, if they answer no to this question, they are simply sent to the bathroom to "work it out".

She asked me if I had ever heard of this, and I answered "no", because, well, it sounded like another crazy Japanese health myth. However, last night I googled it, and it appears it may have some value. Go figure~ haha
Some comic relief - a google images result from searching 「お腹が痛い」 "onaka ga itai", or "my stomach hurts".

I thought maybe this was just something limited to that instance, but once time passed and I started to be able to follow conversations more, which made me realize some strange things in my friend's conversations. They talked about poop a lot. My one friend always announced to our lunch group when she was going to poop, everyday.

Another time, I had a stomachache the day after my trip to Nikko. My host brother and I are, and to this day, remain very close. But we never discussed anything too personal (ie: love lifes, personal problems, and especially not our bathroom business). So, when I casually mentioned that my stomach hurt, I was dumbfounded by his response: 「トイレに行けば?」"What if you went to the bathroom?" I was like, "huh?" Needless to say, I made a comment about just taking medicine and made a quick dash for it. Awkward moment almost avoided.

But, since we're on the subject of potties, lest we not forget one of my favorite things about Japan~!
toilets that make sounds!

yes, there are many toilets in Japan that have buttons on the side that allow you to play an (obviously fake) flushing sound while using the bathroom. Some even have music buttons! Some also come with heaters, which is something I looooved during the winter! haha

Picture of above-mentioned toilet seat. Taken from here
So, essentially, you can talk about your bodily functions but lest someone hear you while doing them!

Even though this is one of the things that makes me go "oh, japan...", I appreciate this because I do not want anyone to hear me pee! Since coming home, it's very hard or me to feel comfortable when I'm using a public bathroom.

By the way, I heard from someone (I think it was my Japanese teacher or one of my Japan-related books) that the reason they started producing toilet seats with these sounds was to cut down on water waste because women repeatedly flushed the toilet. Yay Japan for being more eco-friendly!

I'm a follower of the blog "1000 Things About Japan" and #156 is dealing with potty talk.  I really like this blog so please check it out! It's very interesting for those who have lived in Japan or are simply curious.

Now, this didn't really bother me as much as make me really wonder. Why is it that we Americans cannot freely discuss our bodily functions? Why is it that Japanese people, especially Japanese women, can?

I guess it's simply a difference in cultural norms, huh? What about your country? Does it differ person-to-person? Do you feel uncomfortable discussing it with others?

Also, while searching google for images, I also came across this site, which if you can't speak Japanese might still be interesting. But if you can, I'm sure you'll get some laughs out of it.

And last but not least, please check out my giveaway! It's open until the end of January and I'd really like as many people to enter as possible!

Thank you so much for reading.
Now time for bed!
お休みなさい, wherever this post finds you♥

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