Perhaps some of you are already familiar with Japanese toilet-training videos, where poop is cute and cartoon-y and accompanied by songs and ancient wisdom (I've heard that it does wonders where the tots are concerned, and plan to try it myself when we get to that phase...) But aside from kid-jokes and lots of other bizarre things being cartoon-ized, there seems to be a strange preoccupation with poop here that I can't figure out.
Here's the packaging for a pointer-stick with a swirl of poo on the end that J bought at a home furnishings store called Loft:
It extends to 70cm! I think it's also a ball-point pen.
Here's the cartoon on the back:
As best I can translate, "Unchi-kun Tanjo," or Little Poop's Birthday: he pops out (sound effects: pon!), says "Ta da!" and introduces himself, saying, "Nice to meet you, I'm poop! I was just born, won't you all be my friends?" In the last frame, as the people are digusted by him ("Gross! Stinky!"), he's saying, "Pleasure's mine!"
Next comic: Gambare, Unchi-kun," or, Good Luck, Little Poop.
Well, novelty is one thing, but then there are the golden poop stickers:
Yes, that is a poop on a red cushion in the middle. If you look hard, you can see that the poop in the second row from the bottom is even smiling. When I bought these stickers, I also bought a golden poop key-chain for J, and noticed a display statue of golden poop (on a red cushion) about 3 inches high, for $30. I love it, but Why?! What is the meaning?
Last night at dinner, J was telling me about an exhibit of butsudan (Buddhist altars, for use in the home) that he'd just seen. Some of them were incredibly elaborate, with delicate carvings, tons of gold leaf, and big enough for him to climb inside. He said they can cost up to $100,000. That's dollars.
"Isn't that kind of ostentatious? I thought Buddhism was about simplification," I said, naively.
So we talked about butsudan being like any other consumer item, appealing to people's tastes, appreciation for craftsmanship, and desires to display their status. J said, "Maybe people think of it as a little paradise for the Buddha."
"But didn't the Buddha transcend his attachment to worldy things?" I went on, "Why should he care what the butsudan looks like? It could look like crap for all he cares."
"Yeah," said J, "even crap has Buddha nature."
Perhaps this is the mystery behind the golden poop.