Japan messes up with potty training



By Ryann Connell
Staff Writer

April 2, 2005


There's something stinky about the growing numbers of Japanese kids as old as seven who are still getting around in dirty diapers because their mothers couldn't given a damn about toilet training them, according to Shukan Josei (4/12).

"You find kids who run around in filthy diapers, playing and joking as though absolutely nothing is wrong," veteran daycare center nurse Sachiko Senkawa tells Shukan Josei. "And you'll also find other kids who want to put on diapers whenever they feel like they have to have a wee or poop."

Comparative statistics tell an alarming tale.

In 1990, only 22 percent of mothers hadn't started toilet training their children by the time they reached 18 months. At the turn of the millennium however, that percentage had skyrocketed to 52 percent.

And 15 years ago, 94 percent of all 2-year-olds had begun using the potty, but just five years ago that number had plummeted to an abysmal 74 percent.

Though few appear to be doing little to tackle the problem, diaper companies are welcoming it with widely opened arms.

The delightfully named Goon Refreshing Bigger than Big Size Diapers first appeared on the market in April 2004 and have sold like hotcakes ever since. Japanese consumers buy about 5 million Goon Refreshing Bigger than Big Size Diapers every month. What's notable about the Goon Refreshing Bigger than Big Size Diapers is that they're recommended for use from ages 3 to 7.

"We had many requests for diapers in sizes bigger than our Large models, so we've known for quite some time that older kids are still using diapers," Tsuyoshi Maeyama of the personal care projects development section at Elleair, the company that produced the super-sized diapers, tells Shukan Josei. "Since about 2001, I've seen with my own eyes a rapid increase in the number of letters we've received from customers and responses to surveys asking us to produce bigger than existing sizes."

Goro Kono, head of the Japanese Journal of Well Being for Nursery Schoolers, the country's largest organization of daycare centers, puts the blame for kids in dirty diapers solely at the feet of their mothers.

"At the time when there were only cloth diapers, it used to create loads of washing, but they also gave mothers a chance to bond closely with their children. When a baby cried at night, its mother could go in and feel inside its diaper to see if it was wet, then talk directly to the kid, saying things like 'stinky' if there was a deposit inside and it needed changing," Kono tells Shukan Josei. "Mothers who don't care enough about their children nowadays don't even talk to the babies as they change their diapers. Children aren't aware that the filthy diapers are something that should be shunned. It's one of the major reasons that increasingly older children are still wearing diapers."