Those of you who have children 2 years old or older have dealt with or are dealing with the joy of potty-training them. The main problem with potty-training can be summed up as follows:
Forcing children to use toilets will make them dislike toilets. Children begin using toilets when they tire of that not-so-fresh feeling. Of course, this is long, way long, after you tire of it.
Of course to help bridge this gap between the parents desire for thier children to potty-train as quickly as possible and the child’s desire to do only what he/she wants to do there are an endless supply of children’s educational media. Despite having dubious effectiveness, the simple fact that there are enough parents that will buy anything and everything that is construed as ‘educational’ for children ensures that this market is alive and well. This is true even in Japan, where despite the low birth rate and shrinking population there is just as much of this glut as there is in the west.
The two main companies that produce education media for children in Japan are NHK and Benesse (pronounced beh-neh-seh). NHK is of course known as the huge PBS equivalent in Japan. In reality there are so many differences between NHK and PBS, most importantly NHK’s substantial budget that allows it to compete with other major networks, that only the most general comparison is valid. You can think of it as a full-blown major network that happens to be owned by the government. In the mornings they have several children’s educational shows, with the two most popular being おかあさんといっしょ (Together With Mother, a strange name for the show since it really has nothing to do with the children’s mothers) and いないいないば！(Peekaboo!) Karisa loves both of these shows, and Ryoko’s sister in Yokohama is kind enough to regularly tape them and send us copies. Since the TV channel itself operates in the red (Instead of pledge week like PBS does, they have employees that go door to door demanding/asking for donations. Kind of a wierd system, but I guess it works.) they unabashedly merchandize every single character from every show.
Since Benesse doesn’t own thier own major network, they can’t compete directly in the TV market. All they have is one TV show on TV Tokyo starring thier flagship character, Shimajiro, a cartoon tiger of Mickey-Mouse-like roundness and proportions. The business model for thier children’s education works as a subscription service. You buy an over-priced subscription, and every month they send you books, videos, a few toys (educational, of course), etc. There is no way I would fork over as much every month as Benesse asks for, but Ryoko’s parents are different. Being absolutely willing to spoil thier grand-daughter in any way possible, they have a subscription to Benesse, and every few months ship us all the stuff that came.
Like all ‘educational’ children’s literature it is thinly disguised brain washing, but being a parent for a couple years has really let me see the the value of brain-washing. They actually learn useful things from it. Of course as they get older and start thinking for themselves it won’t work, but I figure we might as well teach them good things while they are teachable.
So anyway, the latest Shimajiro video has this section on potty-training, and the first time I saw it I laughed so loudly that Ryoko actually got mad. “This is educational! It’s trying to present potty-training as something fun for kids!” But the video was just so over-the-top, I couldn’t help myself. Especially where he gets his underwear and becomes a super underwear pervert.
Update: It seems that same video has been featured on Dave Barry’s Blog. Who would think a little video could go so far? Now all it needs is to be farked to go prime time!