Farting is not a spectator sport, and the Japanese are quite clear about it.
Japan’s Hokkaido Tourism Organization has issued an advisory for foreign tourists, asking them to withhold their fire completely in public or at least be super discreet about it.
The advisory comes in the form of an illustrated booklet titled The Traveler’s Etiquette Guide To Hokkaido. The guide, among other things, explicitly asks visitors to avoid “belching or flatulence in public.”
According to a report by the Asian Correspondent, the guide is aimed squarely at the unruly Chinese tourists thronging the island of Hokkaido. In fact, the idea for publishing a booklet like this took root after worried Japanese hotel owners expressed concerns about hosting Chinese visitors in their establishments.
Chinese tourists have over the years acquired a reputation for being noisy, problematic guests in other countries. From fighting for prawns in Thailand to damaging cherry blossom trees in Japan for a selfie, the Chinese have done it all. Even the Chinese government seems to be aware of their citizens’ exploits abroad and is trying to bring some order to the chaos.
The tourist etiquette guide is not a brand-new work. In fact, it’s a second iteration. The first version, published last August, had come under a lot of flak from the Chinese, who complained that the guide was “condescending” towards them and had assumed that all Chinese people lacked manners and common sense (that version was titled Common Sense When Traveling Hokkaido).
Following the complaint, the tourism body went to work on the guide again and came up with a revised version.
This version too, though dutifully polite, may not be music to the Chinese ears.
For example, tourists have been advised not to steal from the hotels they are staying in.
“Of the items provided at your accommodation, you may generally take home disposable or consumable items such as soap, shampoo and razors. However, please do not remove other items such as cutlery, dishes, kettles, hair dryers or the like from your guest room — taking such items is considered theft.”
They have been advised not to leave the toilet in a smeary mess. “It’s common courtesy to make sure that you don’t dirty the toilet or washroom.” There is even a mini-tutorial on how to use a “washlet.”
And, of course, there’s the fart protocol.
“Japanese etiquette is based on avoiding causing discomfort or nuisance to others. Accordingly, Japanese will avoid bodily functions such as belching or flatulence in public entirely, or perform bodily functions as discreetly as possible. Of course, these functions are a necessary part of human life, but please be modest and discreet when visiting Japan.”
In contrast to the current fart paranoia, the Japanese were quite taken with the subject in the olden days. This is nowhere more apparent than in their fart art from the Edo period, known as He-Gassen or “Fart Battle.”
He-Gassen is an art scroll from 200 to 400 years back, depicting men, women, and animals engaged in totally ludicrous, no-holds-barred fart wars. Tokyo’s Waseda University has put the scrolls online and you can have a look at them here.
However, despite He-Gassen’s reassuring presence, farts were not always welcome in polite company.
In the same time period as He-Gassen, there existed women in Japan known as “heoibikunis.” The heoibikunis had the most unbelievable job profile in human history. They were hired as maids for young aristocratic women, and their job was to take the blame for their mistresses’ farts.
This is how the gig worked, according to Rocket News 24.
“Even the most noble of women farts, and those intestinal zephyrs were the heoibikuni’s true call of duty. When her mistress’ backside let out an audible hiss, peep, or blast, it was the heoibikuni’s job to verbally proclaim to all who smelled it that in fact she, and not her employer, had dealt it.”
Let’s conclude this with a video of a “sociological experiment” of sorts, conducted far away from Japan, in NYC. You’ll note that past the halfway mark, the entire thing starts turning into a spectator sport.
(NSFW: Some hilarious sounds here, may dilute the gravitas of workplace, discretion advised)
Do you think farts are our own business and don’t come under the purview of tourism bodies? Or, viewing it from a culture-specific vantage point, is it absolutely fine for authorities to regulate gaseous bodily emissions on cultural grounds?
[Image via Shutterstock/sunabesyou]