Wednesday, September 15, 2004
Gaijin and the Tao of Kancho
Today’s topic may prove shocking to the uninitiated Western elements of this page’s readers who are unaccustomed to open discussion of the regular and private functions of the human body. And, in fact, Japanese language students I have met abroad have almost universally tried to deny the pervasiveness of kancho in the Japanese childhood. But I’m here to tell you, friends, that kancho is very real, and it may be closer than you think! Kancho quite literally means “enema.” I have not often heard enemas discussed in North America, and if I were to hazard a guess, your average elementary school student on that continent would be at a loss to define it. Not so in Japan! As far as I could tell during that period of my life, a good number of my classmates had had personal encounters with the real thing. I came very close myself, once, when I was about fifth grade because in my perpetual quest to get out of school I on one occasion unwisely played the “constipation” card instead of the usual “fever” one. I convinced my parents to take me to the hospital, and after half-heartedly interviewing me for a couple of moments the doctor said: “Right then, kancho it is!” (in Japanese, of course). I jumped off the examining table and said I had to go to the bathroom—RIGHT NOW! Hah, no kancho for me! At least, not in the doctor’s office. The fact is the majority of Japanese school children are fascinated by the Tao of Kancho. Freud would probably have something to say about this. They put their hands together as if in prayer, and then extend both index fingers in imitation of the doctor’s dreaded instrument. Then they shout “kancho!” and try to give someone a fake kancho. Sometimes they even play kancho tag. There were many facets to my experience as a Japanese school boy, and one of them was always having to watch my nether-regions. This may not have been a healthy way to grow up. Ex-patriots teaching English to children in Japan will inevitably face the kancho phenomenon. There are different ways in which gaijin deal with it. Some celebrate it (this post by an ex-Aomori JET is actually what triggered today’s essay). The best aristic rendition I have ever seen of the practice of kancho was done by David Namisato who used to be the Coordinator of International Relations in my old hometown of Ajigasawa, and who is therefor very well informed on the subject. My favorite illustrations in past JET publications were all done by him.
This could happen to any JET at anytime. In conclusion, there are a few steps a gaijin can take to minimize kancho danger:
1)Never turn your back on a Japanese school kid (girls are no exception).
2)Never bend over.
3)Trust no one. Avoid everyone.
Having said all that, I have never yet, in all my three weeks at Kazamaura Junior High School, seen the kancho performed. So far the kids in my school seem to be so pure minded that they are content with the lesser vulgarities featured in this week's video of the week on the sidebar (and please note, they are trying to say "fart", and not the other "f" word).