Unchi no hanashi
(Speaking of poo)
Wintertime is cold in Tokyo. But worse than the cold is the fact that because there is little or no insulation in Japanese domestic construction, rooms in a home always feel so cold. Without insulation it is difficult to keep rooms comfortable. Japanese know this, and it contributes to a culture where people commonly express concern for each other’s health in the winter months, and advice to take care of one’s health.
I am usually at a loss when my wife asks me if I, or the children have a fever. I don’t know. How am I supposed to know? From experience I have learned that I cannot feel if I have a fever unless my temperature is high enough to produce symptoms other than a warm forehead - because I cannot tell by touch if a forehead is warmer than it ought to be. This is how a recent conversation went:
J: How is your feeling?
G: Fine, I guess.
J: Do you have a fever?
G: I don’t know.
J: Did you check?
J: Please check.
G: No fever.
J: Are you cold?
G: I’m always cold - my hands and feet.
J: Do you have a sore throat?
J: You have a sore throat!?
G: My throat has been sore since March 2000. It’s normal for my throat to be sore. I have a headache, though.
J: What?! You have a headache?
G: Yes, since I married you.
J: Hidoi! (You’re awful!)
G: I might have geri (diarrhea).
G: But don’t worry. It’s Japanese poo (unchi), and Japanese poo is usually (taitei) diarrhea (geri).
J: How do you know?
G: For many years I have heard men in the toilet stalls next to me at schools and other places. The sounds coming from there are so terrible that I want to call the police - or a doctor. But I think Japanese think that normal poo is supposed to be soft (yawarakai). For North Americans, normal poo is firmer and harder (katai). Japanese poo is like American geri. Maybe it is a diet thing: too many noodles and tea with their rice. Not enough meat and potatoes. Anyway, it’ sick and disgusting.
J: Maybe you are sick!
G: Yeah, right. Ouch! I mean, yes, maybe I am.
J: I think nobody knows this. You should write it.
G: Okay. Maybe I will.