So of course as things go with studying Japanese culture every day, I still get surprised and have to just go… WTF JAPAN? Because honestly being from the west this little game/joke/prank called kancho is for me a big WTF. So what is this naughty game called called kancho all about? Well simply put it’s when someone sneaks up on you and jams their fingers into your butthole.
No, I’m not kidding. The game kancho which is usually played by small children under the age six is something that literally involves your fingers and a butt. But just because it’s mostly played by children, doesn’t mean that they’re just doing it to each other… Oh no, in fact, if you’re a teacher, parents, older sibling you better protect your back parts from being probed, and to be fair, you could also find yourself getting a probe from someone at work, high school or college (some just don’t mentally grow up past the age of 6)! This weird oddity is not just Japan’s alone, the Korean’s and those in Philippians seem to enjoy a good game of jab the butthole. Butt, seriously now, this game is so revered in Japan, they had to make themselves a statue of the good ol’ time they’ve had jabbing strangers, friends, family and even teachers in the bung-hole.
The Etiquette of Kancho
One thing to note though is that yes these cultures are different, and for the most part kancho in Japan is tolerated especially those 6 and younger. So if you’re planning on being a Japanese English Teacher for wee ones, then you could expect a nice bit of backlash from your students at one point in time when they become a ragging pack of piranha. The Japanese give these kids HUGE room to be bastards, so the best way to handle them is to never mentally break in from of them, be able to take a joke and even be able to deal some back to them (minus the kancho, c’mon now, that’s a bit creepy). If you can do that, it’s said Japanese children will respect you for that and give you less of a hard time. But for those that are not equipped with a sense of humor may end up a broken mess on the floor during the first day of school.
But to further the rules, well, there really are no rules, except, avoid being a pervert at the wrong time, like:
Funerals, Weddings (proper timing), School Entrance Ceremonies, Trains (This is known as chikan if done wrong =P), On the Frail Elderly.. and you know I’m sure you just have to use your best judgement here, if it seems it might be frowned upon to sneak attack a persons butthole at a certain time, try to find another more suitable time to do so…
(I’ve been informed that it’s not a law to get measured once a year – please scroll this forum to learn more – below is the original article)
So what exactly is this fat tax everyone is talking about from Japan? Is it real? Is it really illegal to be fat in Japan? Well, first off, yes it is real, there is a sort of ‘fat’ tax that is applied for those over a certain BMI/waistline in Japan (85 cm for men and 90 cm for women). But you’ll never see anyone actually arrested for being fat… Fined, absolutely, but not the individual themselves, companies are the ones who take the hit. Japan requires it’s citizens between 40 and 74 years of age to get their BMI/waistlines measured once a year, and if need be seek medical attention and counseling.
The law is actually called (get ready for it):
“Standard Concerning Implementation Special Health Examination
Special Public Health Guidance”
Otherwise known as ‘Metabo’ law, started in 2008 to combat ‘metabolic syndrome” and to curb the country’s overweight population by at least 25% by 2015. So with that said, has it worked? It has actually, it’s dropped the obese rate of Japanese people by 1% since it started. So Japan put out all the stops to help curb any excess fat that they can from society.
But already Japan has a few things going for them that Americans simply don’t. First Japanese people already eat a diet full of fish, vegetables and rice, whereas Americans literally are loading up on ultra-processed foods 50% of the time! Second is that Japanese people by default end up having to walk much more then Americans, and are encouraged to do so. Americans simply for the most part do not have the ability to leave their house and walk into a city as many Americans live on the out skirts of cities.
Then third the Japanese now have the Metabo law to help reinforce and help curb what they consider an epidemic of fatness! Americans, have nothing of the sort, and honestly it would be unconstitutional to do so. Instead America would be best to keep teaching individuals how to eat and what to avoid, because half of their food being eaten is absolutely trash.
So what do the stats looks like for overweight people in Japan, and did they really need to implement this law? Well the answer shouldn’t surprise you, but here are some numbers and a few facts regarding overweight people Japan vs America.
Only 3.6 percent of Japanese people have a body mass index (BMI) over 30 (which I now believe is 3.1 percent), which is the international standard for obesity, whereas 35.7 percent of Americans do. A total of 33.1 percent of Americans have a BMI over 25 (discounting those in the obese category), making them overweight, but only 21.1 percent of Japanese make the grade to be considered overweight (discounting those in the obese category)!
Lets look at this in the raw numbers to see how absolutely insane this really is:
Obese Japanese People: 4,500,000
Obese American People: 101,000,000!
Overweight Japanese People: 31,000,000
Overweight American People: 105,250,000
Total overweight and obese:
Total in Japan: 31,100,000
Total in America: 218,750,000
So I’d say Japan is doing something right when you compare it to America right? But let’s be fair and look at the numbers if they were to have the same amount of people, but let’s look at it if America had as many people as Japan.
Total in Japan: 31,100,000
Total in America (same pop. as Japan): 86,668,000
In this made up chart America would still have over 50,000,000 more people that are overweight. This would also mean that out of the 126,000,000 people only about 45,000,000 would be healthy which is about 1/3 of the population.
Japanese Population: 126,000,000
American Population: 318,000,000 – (Feb 9th 2017)
So as you know the law is not coming to take you to jail if you’re too fat in Japan, they’re not going to come slap handcuffs on you or force you into fat camp. Although you will be required to see a counselor and a dietician to help you curve that hefty waistline, that is if you even show up for your appointment.
So, is that it? You pretty much just get a slap on the wrist and a bit of mandatory counseling? Well, yes and no. The biggest effects from this law stem from companies who employee bigger people. The big punishments are really being felt by the companies of Japan. If they find ANY of their employees are big boned and over the limit they can be fined a fair sum of money until everyone has a come to Jesus meeting and gets a grip and slims down. Companies actually hand out ‘Metabo’ towels that have a measurement stitched into the towel so you can see if you’re gaining weight or if you’re losing it. Otherwise to basically help you remember that if you’re overweight your a burden on the companies well-being.
One fine a company was said to pay was upwards of $19,000,000 dollars! This is why you will see companies doing a set of work outs in the morning before they start work. 30 minutes of stretching they say help keep everyone a bit more fit, and they also found that it keeps their employees more focused on their tasks. But not everything is as it seems, this program that seems to have well intentions (which I agree to a point), doesn’t have everyone’s best interests. Because of this, people that are bigger are shunned and made fun of and verbally abused, and this attitude also leeches into the public and private lives as well, but besides the emotional and societal backlash, did Japan really need to enact this law?
A professor at Tokai college School of Medicine, Yoichi Ogushi said that there really is no need for Japanese people to lose weight. Yoichi Ogushi was noted saying that he does not think it will have any positive long lasting effect. He also said something like the Metabo law would work best in areas like the USA or Australia and other places that actually HAVE a weight problem. At this moment he said the Japanese people are too slender and they can’t afford to lose weight.
But on the other hand the president of the Health Policy Institute of Japan, James Kondo, believes that this law is a positive thing. He claims that the check up every years increases the public’s awareness of the health challenges that come with obesity and the metabolic syndrome. Okay well if you agree with it or not it’s something that Japan is really doing. But there are a few criticisms and flaws of this policy that should be pointed out:
The measurements done around the waist do not always give an accurate measurement of persons body fat.
The law totally avoids childhood obesity, which is where most weight challenges occur in life.
Companies discriminate against people who are a tiny bit overweight or not overweight at all, thinking they could become over weight
Less than 50% of the people attend the required checkups
Of those who do that are found to go and have a weight issue, only about 12% of the people who received counseling even took the advice or even acted on it.
So, there’s that…
But the more I researched this subject the more I ran into a lot of research showing that men, women but mostly girls are taking this to the next level and basically starving themselves. More and more eating disorders are taking place in Japan and Metabo law has certainly not helped curb this growing challenge that is taking place in Japan. There is even stories I’m reading about where children are indoctrinated into believing eating too much can turn you into a pig, and it’s seen as heroic to not eat!
Well, perhaps at one point in Japanese history when food was a scarce thing, these kind of stories came up, and then they just got pass on down from generation to generation. But these children stories are not doing anyone any good. So there could be much more research into how deep this really goes, because as already mentioned, why not tackle childhood obesity too? Well many believe and I tend to also bend towards the idea that big pharmaceutical companies have a play in this role in this Metabo law decision. Japan has the 2nd largest pharmaceutical market in the world.
To end this endless rabbit hole of questions and points of view about this Metabo law, there was a question I had about this. What about sumo wrestlers? Are they stuck with the same law as everyone else? And the answer is, YES! They are stuck with having to give up the gut as there time arrives when they turn 40. But it’s also interesting to note that the oldest wrestler to win a top division sumo championship was 37 years of age (Kyokutenho Masaru). So the vast majority of these wrestlers will never have to worry about it. But, I wonder though about those who have to work hard to get themselves below the thresholds of the Metabo law in time, when for most of their lives they’ve been commended for being a big fat wrestler.
Discover what life is like and the dangers of being apart or disconnected of the Japanese work force.
As I continue my studies of Japanese lifestyles and culture the more I’m inclined to look behind the curtains and see what’s on the other side of the golden do no harm view of Japan. In this case I decided to do some digging on the homeless, the working poor and salarymen of Japan and what the dangers and connections are to these challenges.
The more I read and watch about these challenges of Japan the more I’m able to see what the personal and social truths are to these choices (or to some a forced hand) and with that I see a little bit more of what is really happening inside the heart of Japan. Besides the loss of jobs and the economic decline of Japan, we see the shame society coming to play. There seems to be almost a double edge sword when it comes to either being homeless, a working poor or a salaryman in Japan. On one hand having a stable job and wage to maintain your living standard is what most people hope for, there is also some of the culture who says that it’s not always the best thing to strive for. In fact many of the younger generation are looking at full time work as something to avoid and instead are grouping up together to take care of each other in numbers. This younger generation is still working as part-timers, but they are finding much more freedom to pursue their interests while still being able to live comfortably and securely.
Japan: A Story of Love and Hate
Song of the Salaryman
Youth Poverty And Death From Overwork In Japan
But on the other side of this we see those who want to maintain their honor by not burdening society, these people either fall one of two ways. They’re either greeted with an opportunity to work as a Salaryman or they will eventually slip through the cracks to part-time work or eventually homelessness. The more I dug through personal testimonies of people who were either salarymen, part-timers or homeless I couldn’t help see the disaster brewing behind all these options. The pressure to have full-time work from family and society is a rather heavy load to hold, but when one can not perform and gain themselves employment they feel shameful in front of these audiences. Eventually these people will fall into the part-timer, and many see these jobs as roads to no where. So more shame is felt because of this option in work, and with that becoming a part-timer quickly will lead to what is now called in Japan ‘The Working Poor’, because many times unless with help, these people are unable to pay for food, rent and essentials of living. Since these people shun asking for help because of honor, they’ll eventually lead themselves straight to living on the streets to avoid being a burden.
Many of these working poor will actually find themselves staying the night at manga cafe’s for a small fee for the night, only to wake up the next day to go search for work. Then you have your homeless, which mainly consist of the older generation, from before the economic bubble popped. Many of these people feel that once you’re laid off, taking a part-time job is basically signing your own occupational death, as it’s extremely hard to get back on your feet (so they say). So many of them fought for awhile but eventually resigned to be homeless as the fight for work in Japan raged on. But on the farthest side of this challenge we have those with work, and these people are also finding that they are sacrificing much for the opportunity to be a full-time worker. The day in and day out working between 12-18 hours or more a day is not uncommon in Japan. It’s been said that once hired in Japan that you’ll be taken care of as you join the company family, and that may be sort of true still today, but at what costs? As seen in this short film, one literally will give up their life for their work.
More often then not these salaryman never get to see their children born as they’ll be in another city or at work, then when these children grow up they hardly get to know their father as he’ll often be at work before the child wakes up and he’ll come home long after they’ve been asleep, but since he’s the primary breadwinner he can not stop otherwise he’ll risk hurting his families life style and more importantly he’s children’s future. There is great pride in maintaining a family in Japan, but with that comes a great amount of mental fatigue and stress that is put on these people to perform. With that the overworked people of Japan known as salaryman also have dangers that occur while working to the brink of collapse and it’s called karoshi and it means ‘death from over work’.
Karoshi is an ever growing challenge in Japan. Between those who commit suicide and accidentally die after over working are all people considered to have succumb to karoshi. It said that about 300 deaths occur every year from karoshi, but this number which has been supplied by the Ministry of Labor is completely wrong. The Japanese government says that it’s more into the 1000’s, but again they skew the numbers. It said that the main causes of karoshi (‘death from over work’) comes from heart attack, stroke and a starvation diet, but they lack to count the deaths that occur after overworking, such as falling down stairs, getting hit by cars and even at times stumbling on to train tracks, and of course the list goes on and on. So what would the real numbers be?
Of course the definition of karoshi is not seen as the same by all parties. It’s said that with all definition in place of what karoshi is, there is more then 10,000 deaths by karoshi every single year. But the Japanese government continues to keep that on the down low as they much rather take only %10 of this into account. Be it as it may, the challenges of the Japanese economy, specifically of their work force or lack there of has a lot of shaping up to do. On the lighter side of things, there are happy and successful people in all 3 of these categories, so it really comes down to attitude and the state of mind these people are in, and not all salaryman have it to these extremes, but it’s something you will certainly see if you ever visit Japan.
But as I further unravel the Japanese culture I can clearly see how drinking at izakaya’s (bars), pachinko parlors, manga cafes, religion and many other services found in Japan are used to decompress the stresses of every day life in Japan. You can even say that the stress that’s quite normal to an everyday salaryman is also a cause for the lack of sex inside relationships and many times having a relationship to begin with. So as population declines in Japan, we should not just blame the hikikomori’s we must also come to face a growing problem with people literally not getting it on in Japan because of the stressful work conditions. The sex scene throughout Japan is actually declining and many places in Japan which were only available for citizens of the area are now having to open their doors to foreigners… but that’s another story.
For those who thought Japan had no faults think again #brokenfantasy. I find those who really feel this way, are usually hardcore otaku who consume all parts of the entertainment industry of Japan without taking a second look at the people of Japan when considering their next anime fix. But, with that said, I’ll shine through some of my own otakuness and share with you an anime movie called ‘Tokyo Godfather’s” which is a story of a group of homeless that end up taking care of a baby.