People who do not live in Japan are exposed to the country through various channels – movies, anime, manga, pop stars, news, etc. However, there is quite a number of… interesting facts about this country that, for various reasons, will probably never reach the eyes and ears of non-Japanese people. This article introduces two common ones, centered on Japanese children.
The first is 「中二病」“chu ni byo”, or Junior High Second Grade Sickness, and it affects – no points for guessing correctly – second year junior high school students. It’s not a physical illness, but rather, a mental issue. For the first graders, junior high school life is a totally different experience from what they’re used to in elementary school, so they view their new school life with a sense of adventure, excitement, fear and/or curiosity. The third graders’ minds are occupied by the dreaded high school entrance exams, so in a sense, they are focused on a single objective for the remainder of their junior high school life.
The second graders, however, have already had experienced one year in junior high, so they do not feel the heart-pounding emotions they had experienced the previous year. On the other hand, they have no make-or-break tests or exams like what the third graders face. This has a psychological impact on the second graders. The exact effects of this “sickness” vary, but affected students usually feel like they’re in a limbo of sorts, with no sense of purpose or direction. This can adversely affect their behavior and attitude towards everything – peers, parents, teachers, studies - and can last up to a year.
The second, and more disturbing, fact is the existence of a favorite pastime among elementary school kids (a custom adapted from their kindergarten days) - the「浣腸」“kancho”. Basically, it means sticking up your fingers way up someone else’s backside region where the sun doesn’t shine. Equally popular is the male private part fondling/grabbing/punching activity. Usually, these activities are done among boys, but there are cases where girls engage in these acts too. And if you happen to be a non-Japanese working in elementary schools as an Assistant English Teacher – regardless of whether you’re male or female - chances are you’ll also get assaulted in one way or the other. Some students do such actions as a way of showing affection, while others do them to start a war with the other party. Not all schools have kids who love “kancho-ing”, but as a rule of thumb, the bigger the school, the higher the chances that they exist. Usually, the children grow out of such practices as they reach Grade 6, but there are exceptions, and some of them continue these pastimes in junior high school.
Sure, Japan is more internationally known for its samurais and ninjas, sumo wrestlers and geishas… but you don’t see the former two anymore, and it’s pretty rare to see the latter two in the flesh, in particular geishas. In contrast, “chu ni byo” and “kancho” are just two of the things that symbolize everyday life in Japan… and for good or for bad, they’re everywhere.