A week of “pu” / poo

The image of the polite Japanese shimmers in the Western imagination and is justified to a certain extent. But please remember. That businessman repeatedly bowing, that serving lady thanking you sixteen times ….they were children once. And children are always children. And farting, passing wind, blowing off – or however you want to call it – is always funny.

I teach two little sisters on a regular basis. They fart a lot. I sniff at them, asking “Who is smelly? Is it you?” and watch them squeal and blame each other. Great fun, if a little unpleasant on my nostrils.

This week, however, involved a lot of “pu” or poo, and it was only partly due to my puerile sense of humour. I work at a school in Osaka and Kyoto for just two hours a week where my job is to “play with the children in English”. This means I get to do skipping, play hide-and-seek, watch Doraemon, play soccer, play dodgeball, cut and stick, eat weird snacks like salty crackers with whipped cream and play tag (in which, I am always oni…the evil demon that has to chase the kids). This week, I was participating in a treasure hunt for letters that would spell out a clue. The key letter was プ which is pronounced “pu” or just like “poo”. A fervent discussion erupted among the children as to exactly where the “pu” should go, if it comes first or last…..and I really wanted to tell them what it was in English. But I withheld myself.

Poo re-emerged in one of my adult classes, an amazing listening lesson called A History of Drinks from Pearson Longman, where students have to put drinks in order of the oldest to newest. In a fervent discussion on healthy drinks, one lady piped up about some kind of fruit drink that “help you poo”. The other two ladies exhibited confusion which rapidly turned to shifting uncomfortably in their chairs.

I decided to take charge. “I think it’s better to say – ‘It’s good for your bowels.'”

“Bowels? What are bowels?”

Cue: pathetic drawing of the small and large intestines and more shifting in chairs.

“Remember to pronounce it well and to spell it properly. Don’t miss the “e” or you’ll be talking about bowls! Hahaha.” *silence*

Less than three hours later, poo came back with a vengeance. I was preparing some notes for a class with two nine-year old girls. Their English is pretty weak but I couldn’t have been more astounded when I found a portrait of myself on the board with “pu” written next to it.

Me: Is that me?
Student 1: Phoebe sensei, Phoebe sensei!
Me: My name’s not “Pu” – it’s Phoebe.
Student 1: Phoebe, Phoebe! Poo! Poo! Shite iru? Poo! [mimes pooing a little too skillfully] [giggles]
Me: [taking board pen] Yes, I know poo. But it’s spelt like this. P-O-O. POO!
Student 2: Phoebe, Phoebe. Look! Poo! [points at piles of dung she’s drawn] [giggles]

It’s amazing how many things transcend cultural boundaries.

Author: Phoebe Amoroso

Phoebe Amoroso is a Tokyo-based reporter, multimedia journalist and storyteller. Hailing from the UK, she moved to Japan in 2014 and has since been shouting about the country to all who will listen. She divides her time between covering breaking news and producing feature stories for TV; writing about everything from business and tech to food and travel; and guiding hungry visitors who want to sample the best of Japanese cuisine. When not working and/or eating, she can often be found running up a mountain or cycling by the sea.

12 thoughts on “A week of “pu” / poo”

  1. Yeah, I realise this isn’t the greatest content for the blog title….. But I couldn’t help expanding into TEFL / TEFL-related anecdotes. Proper categorisation coming soon!

    1. Works for me. I get so many jokes based off my last name, but it’s better than being called heater. Sometime the word substitutions are the funniest things my friends say. Now, if I could only figure out why things that looked like plushie dung are considered cute, I would be happy…

  2. Here’s a pic. It’s not my picture, mind you. I have seen keychains and plushies, as well as fabrics with them printed on it. You can even use them on purikura images. Weird, very weird. Your plushie is also weird. I think it is the Japanese version of ugly sweater syndrome. You know, where they try to out do each other in terms of ugly. They mixed ugly and the intense need for everything to be cute and got:

    shop update: poo softie

    1. Oh my word, that takes tastelessness to a whole new level! It has to be a Village Vanguard item! Have you seen the toilet-shaped curry plates? :X

      1. Yikes. There are just some things that should not be done. Ever.
        For every amazing, wonderful, and interesting thing that comes from Japan, there are things like used panty vending machines, creepy fashion, blow up girl friends, and disgusting drinks. The jelly drink and milk based soda in particular come to mind… yuck

  3. Hehehe very funny! I have to say I’m also intrigued by both jobs you refer to here – firstly, being paid to play with kids and secondly, the listening exercise with adults that you talk about. Where do you work? And how did you come about these jobs??!! They both sound infinitely more enjoyable than working as hagwon teachers in Korea…And we’re currently in the process of deciding where to next…

    1. Haha glad you enjoyed! I found the play with the kids job through an online jobs website. It was really fun and very easy money, but a little long on the commuting time (although my transport costs were paid). The other job I found through a local English free-ad paper. It was for a very small private school run by an Irish guy. The pay wasn’t so good as my private students, but it was fairly enjoyable – I built up a good relationship with many of the kids because there’s never more than 4 in a class! I’ve sadly just given both these up though as I’m now working full-time as an assistant in 8 schools across Kyoto.
      ….Anyway, I think the most important point is that there is LOADS of work here, and private students are so easy to find! Plus it’s possibly to live really cheaply, especially if you’re a couple. I’m not far from the centre of town and I only pay 24000yen a month for rent, including internet. So the plan is to do many amazing trips, hence my trip to SK! 🙂 And although I rant about Japanese food, I’m a big fan of the country 🙂 So I recommend coming here!

      1. Thanks so much for all the advice. We’re really keen on Japan but its always seemed extremely difficult to find jobs from outside the country for both of us. Now we have the advantage of job seeking while being in close proximity (as opposed to when we were looking from New Zealand) it makes things a bit easier. YAY – exciting potential there!

      2. I searched from the UK and came without having a job, but with a few interviews secured. Plus I advertised on websites and started teaching private students week 1. If you’re serious, I’ll happily recommend some sites to you. Check if you’re eligible for a Working Holiday Visa….otherwise getting a sponsor for a work visa can be tricky. Good luck – Japan is definitely worth a visit!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: