December 4, 2017
If you’d like to learn Japanese, may I recommend these impressively popular poop-themed books?
by Susan Rella
Poop Kanji Drills.
That is all.
OK, we can write a little more about it, but really just use The Google and find out all you can about Poop Kanji Drills, because this crap (!) is hilarious.
As Jake Adelstein reported last week in Forbes, the educational series Poop Kanji Drills is taking Japan by (shit?)storm. The series, separated by grade level (first through sixth), aims to teach Japanese schoolchildren roughly one thousand Kanji — the distinctive, Chinese-derived characters whose mastery is a prerequisite for literacy in Japanese. The children’s trusty leader on this scatological script journey? Unko Sensei, which yes absolutely translates 1000 percent to Professor Poop. Professor Poop is a yellow poop emoji with glasses and a mustache. (On the cover to one volume he even appears to be snorkeling, which raises additional serious questions.)
Poop Kanji Drills, according to Adelstein, are in every bookstore in Japan, and they sell like hotcakes. The reason for this popularity? Well, while many in the US associate Japan with excellent cuisine, trailblazing animated cinema, and inadequate preparedness for nuclear disaster, the island nation has recently seen a recent surge in doodoo humor. They are, after all, the land that gave us both the poop emoji and the classic children’s tale Everyone Poops. So it’s not very surprising that Yusaku Furuya, the series’s author, was asked by publisher Bunkyosha to create an educational series centered on poop, after he’s pitched them a collection early-reader poop poetry.
Adelstein writes, “By the end of September, they had sold over 2,760,000 copies nationwide,” which is indeed a shit-ton of books (I’m so sorry). Poop Kanji Drills is now such a popular series that the beloved Professor and his fecal friends have teamed up with Tokyo’s indoor theme park Namjatown for an excrementstravaganza, featuring both Professor Poop cotton candy and Professor Poop curry, I shit you not (oh god I apologize). And while Forbes reports that the series really took off after moms began posting about it to Twitter and Instagram, you gotta believe that the amazing content would’ve eventually sold itself:
The kanji for work, 働 (hataraku, dou) which means “to work, labor’ is introduced with the sentence, “In the future, I want to work at the poop research center in America.” Or, “I was sleepy but then I pooped and my head started to work.”
Another great example, this one from the Japan Times, about how the word “meeting” is taught: “We are starting a poop meeting now.”
Is it any wonder that from its launch last March to the end of May the series sold 1.83 million copies? This may just be the start of a beautiful movement.
Susan Rella is the managing editor at Melville House, and a former bookseller.