Saturday Tangent: Tokyo Shinbun: Fussa City bureaucrat blames NJ residents for more children’s cavities!


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Hi Blog.  It’s been pretty knee-jerk this past decade to blame NJ (or just plain multiculturalism) for anything that’s allegedly going askew in Japan.  Things I’ve seen blamed on NJ and their “cultural differences” (no doubt you know most of these):  Bathhouse altercations, crime, terrorism, infectious diseases, unemployment, neighborhood deterioration, bad smells in both neighborhoods and schools, divorces, DV, drugs, guns, prostitution, unpaid bills (including phone and restaurant), AIDs, youth crime, irregularly colored hair, improper garbage disposal, low J crews on Japanese ships, sports uncompetitiveness, lack of Olympic medals, uncertified sushi, Japan’s low English ability, national security in the SDF, and the potential carving up of Japan as a nation.  More on the NJ Blame Game here.

But I gotta admit, I’ve never seen oral hygiene — as in more cavities — pinned on NJ before!  Read on.  What’s next:  Traffic lights staying red for too long?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo


KYA writes:
I saw this on the TV news today, it’s not really a legal issue or anything but it’s a little bit ridiculous and a little bit offensive:

3歳児の虫歯激減 都内、歯磨き習慣定着
東京新聞 2010年4月21日 07時17分

Fussa’s got the highest percentage of 3 year olds with cavities in Tokyo, and the “person in charge” has decided to blame that on the fact that there are a lot of NJ residents in Fussa who “give their kids juice on a daily basis.”

Given the proximity of Fussa to the Yokota base, however, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of those NJ in Fussa that they’re talking about are American… and American children tend to have MUCH better teeth than their Japanese counterparts. Many Americans are almost paranoid about dental health these days… and on the other hand, Fussa is also one of the less expensive areas of Tokyo, I’d bet that a lot of those cavities can be ascribed to lower-income families who just can’t or won’t spend the money on dental visits and fluoride treatments, etc.

I’m not sure whether to laugh at this or be offended by it… since the terrible teeth of Japanese children are quite the popular conversation topic among the American eikaiwa teachers that I’ve known, it seems ironic at the least. ENDS

18 comments on “Saturday Tangent: Tokyo Shinbun: Fussa City bureaucrat blames NJ residents for more children’s cavities!

  • I just have to laugh at this one. I am regularly told that I have “perfect, beautiful teeth” by my dentist. I’ve never had a cavity in my life and have all my wisdom teeth. Too bad I can’t move to Fussa and register myself as a child to help bring that average down.

    Oh, and I drink juice three or more times a day. =)

    Next they’ll say the spread of colds is caused by Americans. Because we wash our hands with warm water and soap…

    — Hold that thought!

  • It’s a known fact even among the Japan admirers like myself that Japanese oral hygiene is just plain bad. Even famous idols, actors and actresses have really ugly teeth, in real need of braces.

    I wonder who it is they blame the appearance of contraceptive pills? I’ve read that it’s very difficult to find them in Japan.

    — No no, you can get the Pill. There are just a couple more hoops to jump through and the Pill are a much older variety (I was surprised to hear recently that you can get a three-month contraceptive overseas that stops menstruation for the duration. Can’t get that here AFAIK.)

  • I’ll never forget the time at the local bowling alley in my inaka town when a Japanese father in the lane next to mine continually fed his 2-to-3-year-old daughter the little sealed cups of liquid sugar meant for iced coffee. While I’m sure (or would at least hope) that the majority of parents would never do such a thing, it just goes to show you that questionable parenting practices cross all nationalities.

  • Yes, if you are going to attribute it to foreigners and their silly habits, you need to also take into account whether one demographic is more diligent in taking their children to the dentist, thereby being weighted more heavily in the statistics.

  • Russell Watson says:

    What a joke! A lot of what passes for dentistry in Japan is medieval compared to the level of care in the United States, or in my native UK for that matter. Straightening out misshapen teeth has been routine since (probably) the middle of the last century but it has only caught on in Japan in the past decade or so. They still cap teeth with gold fillings for pity’s sakes!

  • I am a Canadian living in Japan and I am obsessed with teeth.

    I’m not really sure how to react to this article. I’ve heard horrible things about English teeth, but from what I’ve seen, the English are not so bad. Japan is WORSE!

    Oral hygiene and basic knowledge of dental care is lagging in Japan. It’s interesting to compare teeth of Japanese returnees (born & raised abroad). Their teeth don’t differ from the average American or Canadian.

  • The xenophobic few worry about foreigners bringing in foreign ideas into the japanese culture, but maybe they would listen when it comes to dentistry? Nah, still foreign, but one could hope, right?

    — Multiculturalism is certainly having some teething problems…


  • “I’d bet that a lot of those cavities can be ascribed to lower-income families who just can’t or won’t spend the money on dental visits and fluoride treatments, etc.”

    An anecdotal read of pretty much any low-income social group, and I’m thinking of really deprived areas of Eastern Canada, or pockets of greater Vancouver that I know of first hand here, will show that often times, as you say, parents can’t be, or won’t be bothered to rise to the occasion. Regardless of what kids NEED, Mom & Pop will always have cash for beer, and kids will be sent to the store with coins for candy. Education levels will be below compulsory schooling level and general life skills will be lacking. (Speaking in generalities here.)

    Similar to Fussa, I see a lot of young (20s-30s) adults here in Andalucia in Spain, historically impoverished, with black teeth or front teeth missing, many very overweight young pre-teen and teen kids shaped like pears, yet they always have a baggie of brightly colored candies, and they’re always “grazing” from them. For some reason these are the girls who always dress in faded pink Spandex.

    Mom & Pop always have a case of local brew and a pile of twinkies in the shopping cart, and the waft of deep fried food emanates from all the windows during meal times. The sad but true story is that they often ask me to read their LDL & HDL level medical reports for them when I’m waiting to check out in the supermarket, as they can’t read, not even Spanish. (Everyone chats to everyone at the checkout!) Needless to say they’re off the end of the charts. Some in excess of 450 or 500. I don’t know how they get home without the left ventricle slamming shut.

    Amagasaki, one of the scariest trips I ever made by error when living in Osaka, would probably out-statictize Fussa if examined up close, I reckon.

    But I thought that “Yamazakura” teeth were cute? I guess so were bound feet, at one time. What do I know, I’m not Japanese.

    — “Yamazakura”? Not yaeba?

  • Yup, “Yamazakura!” Maybe it’s an Osaka or a Kansai thing, I’ve always heard what we’d call “buck teeth” in English referred to as “Yamazakura” as they always come out before the ‘real’ sakura. (The things you learn! Worse yet, the inconsequential things you remember!))

  • “Given the proximity of Fussa to the Yokota base, however, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of those NJ in Fussa that they’re talking about are American… and American children tend to have MUCH better teeth than their Japanese counterparts.”

    Yokota base has its own dental clinic. Those children wouldn’t be included in the study–they’re not even considered residents of Japan. If they were included, the rates might have been slightly higher. American children in this age group (2-5) have about the same, if not higher, cavity rates than Japanese children.

  • I am wondering if it’s just coincidence that the name “Fussa” sounds like “Fusso” (フッ素), the word for Fluoride in Japanese.

    Maybe they need more Fusso in Fussa . . .

  • A better translation for “juice” in this article would be “sugary carbonated beverages.”ジュース
    (see 日本における「ジュース」)

    And regarding the email’s counter theory: aren’t dental visits for children, under Japan’s health insurance system, practically fully covered up to age six? And even after that, it’s still very inexpensive. Children’s dental care COST should not be a factor for people in Japan.

    While I agree that carbonated beverages (and other processed foods) are probably largely responsibly for an increase in cavities (and an increase in obesity) in young children, blaming it on the influence of non-Japanese residents is like blaming them for the increased consumption of McDonald’s in Japan (and the associated increased BMI).

    Young Japanese have been increasing their consumption of soft drinks and fast food for decades. And I’m willing to bet that most of them did not get introduced to this habit by their friendly local foreigner. They’re quite capable of finding their local chain burger joint and operating the vending machines every 200m all by themselves without personal international guidance.

    I think it’s fair to point out that the official for Adachi Ward, home of the worst in the 23 wards of Tōkyō, gave a more sensible answer in the article:

    “We don’t clearly know the reasons why, but we would urge the participation of most parents and children in dental hygiene learning seminars.”

  • If I may be so bold as to say maybe Fussa needs some Fusso in their drinking water like in my uncivilized barbarian American thatch village where dental hygiene is so primitive the drinking water is actually mixed with fluoride to further prevent tooth decay.

  • There is a big Fuss over the Fusso in Fussa! Anyway, this makes me wonder is this bureaucrat has children and if their teeth are in poor condition?

  • Just when you thought people couldn’t fit their legs any further into their mouths. Wow. Maybe his theory is the Japanese kids have been getting the bacteria that causes tooth decay from kissing all the NJ kids?

  • Colgate-Palmolive is selling their “Colgate Fluoride Toothpaste” across the globe but apparently not in Japan. So Fussa city might ironically be right in blaming NJ for more children’s cavities (because Colgate really is unavailable in Japan).

    — Wait, that’s illogical. If nobody has access to fluoride toothpaste, then NJ are not at higher risk.

  • Everybody has access to fluoride toothpaste in Japan. Just search for フッ素 歯磨き粉 and you’ll find thousands of products for sale, including my daughter’s favorite, “DENT.Check-Up kodomo”, strawberry flavor and cute bunny on the tube to boot.

  • @The Shark,

    My toothpastes are almost finished and as usual I ask my sister in Europe to send me here. I don`t use Japanese “sand” to clean my white and also white filled teeth. Even my J wife use European one. Regarding dentists. I found after 10 years really good in Tokyo. Old man, trained in US. He knows what is he doing. The thing is good dentists here don`t accept NHI so they can do their way. I`m on private and don`t care. My wife who is also on expat insurance had 2 front teeth treatment which cost us about US$2000 but it`s good our insurance reimbursed her. Only 4 visits including root canal. Done ! Usually it takes 10-20 visits to treat just one tooth. Ridiculous system. I would like to add that another dentist did root canal. he does only this, nothing more and also do not accept NHI. Most of their clients I`ve seen so far are expats or Japanese in their 50`s 60`s with yen in their pockets. Never seen young person there.


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