Generating as much buzz on talk shows, the social network and feature news bytes as any political or entertainment matter of late has been the issue of flatulence—public flatulence—and the desire of Japanese to have Chinese visitors not pass gas or belch in public. Of course, authorities in Hokkaido would prefer that no one pass gas or belch in public, but the brochure that the Hokkaido Tourism Organization (HTO) published on the subject last August was printed in Chinese, which helps explain why its existence did not become widely known until last month.
The HTO publication attempts to couch its anti-flatulence advice to the Chinese in the context of the character and behavior of the Japanese people, who “are often described as having ‘moderate,’ ‘modest,’ or ‘mild’ personalities. At the heart of this disposition lies the cherished concept of ‘wa’ (harmony). As inhabitants of an island nation, the Japanese people have long appreciated the importance of cooperation with family, neighbors, friends, and colleagues. It is considered a virtue to fit in with others – even to the point of restraining one’s personal desires. Japanese people tend to be embarrassed to act differently from others, and have developed a tradition of carefully observing the surroundings before acting.”
Following this explanation, the publication inches a little closer to the gas matter: “The Japanese appear particularly polite and quiet in settings such as restaurants, subways, and public spaces. Compared to other groups such as Americans (obviously, the HTO did not want to appear that it was picking on the Chinese alone, even if its publication was in Chinese) or Chinese, the Japanese tend to speak quietly.”
“With little stressed intonation, the Japanese language itself is particularly suited to quiet conversation. As such, the Japanese are easily surprised by loud or intense conversations nearby. It may be helpful to lower your voice slightly when in a Japanese social setting,” it says.
And then, the closer: “Japanese etiquette is based on avoiding (or) 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.
The publication goes on to tell visitors not to smoke in public, to stay in the queue and don’t cut in line when waiting, and more. Fittingly, the polite tenor of the explanations and the advice doesn’t transcend or violate the tone that HTO uses to describe the behavior and character of the Japanese people. As for how the Chinese visitor or traveler is concerned, it remains to be seen what kind of impact on behavior such publications have. Chinese tourism officials have already published items explaining the “do’s” and “don’ts” of international travel; they also maintain a blacklist that contains the names of travelers who could, if Chinese airlines choose to do so, ban them from boarding a flight.
To view the HTO publication in its entirety, visit: