The Break Down: Kancho

Read enough manga, or watch enough anime or Japanese variety shows, and you’ll inevitably come across that particular phenomenon known as the ‘kancho’. An outdated slang term for ‘enema’ (and the bane of every kindergartner and elementary school teacher’s existence), kancho is a prank (or, depending on your point of view, a form of sexual harassment) that typically involves kids – especially young boys – forming an imaginary gun shape with their fingers and delivering a blow straight into the anus of their unsuspecting victim.

In the majority of countries outside of East Asia, this would most likely be seen as utterly ridiculous at best and outright sexually abusive at worst. In Japan, however, the kancho is known to absolutely everyone and has developed a kind of weird cult following which, when successfully carried out, is usually considered the pinnacle of social comedy. For this reason, fully grown adults (typically drunken men) have also been known to indulge in the prank, which has long been a staple of primetime stand-up comedy.

The big question is, where did kancho actually come from? Anyone who’s seen Naruto might assume the action originated with this franchise, and certainly the well-known ‘secret finger jutsu: a thousand years of death’ attack greatly helped to popularise the prank (thanks a lot, Kishimoto Masashi). However, Naruto first began publication and then airing on TV in 1997 and 2002 respectively, and kancho predates this by quite some time – about 50 years in fact, at least if certain research is to be taken at face value.

Believe it or not, it seems likely that the kancho is a much modified version of a legitimate move in a style of martial arts called Shorinji Kempo (Shaolin Temple Boxing), which was established by Japanese martial artist and former military intelligence agent So Doshin in 1947. Composed largely of techniques borrowed and adapted from Shaolin Kung Fu, Shorinji Kempo happens to include an attack called ‘san nen goroshi’ – literally, ‘three year killer’ – presumably because the move inflicts such damage that the pain will last for three years. Similar to kancho, this move involves extending not just the now-standard ‘gun’ fingers but also the middle ones, and rather than focusing on the anus, the point is to temporarily incapacitate an opponent by striking their perineum (the area between the anus and the scrotum/vulva).

From there, the kancho as we know it today found its way into popular culture, though again, not at first via Naruto. One of the biggest and quite possibly initial appearances of kancho in contemporary media was in a comedy manga called Toilet Hakase (literally Toilet Professor/Dr. Toilet, also published under the name Toilet PhD), which ran from 1970 until 1977 and was serialised in Shounen Jump. Starring a scientist specializing in scatology and working in a toilet-shaped laboratory, the manga certainly had a strong influence on spotlighting kancho for much of Japan, particularly in regard to its target readership of tween and teen males. This of course means that even the youngest of those readers would now be in their 50s, and as we’ve seen, kancho has continued to spread down through the succeeding generations.

Credit for the propagation of kancho can also be given to Boong-Ga Boong-Ga, otherwise known as Spank ’em, a South Korean-developed arcade game reportedly designed specifically for the Japanese market, and which was apparently very well-received at the Tokyo Game Show in 2000. The first ever arcade game to physically simulate kancho, it required players to perform the move by way of the installed pair of fake buttocks and a giant plastic finger.

Helped along by a plethora of other popular manga, anime, and TV shows over the years including (but certainly not limited to) Yu Yu Hakusho, Nagi no Asukara, Kampfer, Barakamon, Gintama, and Osomatsu-san, the not-so-humble kancho thus found its way permanently into the Japanese consciousness – and I certainly don’t see it disappearing any time soon.

Question of the post: Have you ever been given the kancho treatment, either in or outside of Japan? If so, how did you deal with it, and if not, how do you think you would?

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7 thoughts on “The Break Down: Kancho

  1. Well yes, outside of Japan. It was when me and some friends I knew were all little. I responded by giving the other kid a death glare that killed his laugh in his throat before it could go anywhere. x) We all were all still kids so it wasn’t a big deal. If grown men do it though, um that’s kind of not ok… unless it’s in a closed bedroom between two consenting individuals lol!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never had a grown man (or woman for that matter) give me the kancho treatment, thank god. I have had multiple elementary school students do it while teaching in Japan, unsurprisingly. In Japan or out though, definitely not something I appreciate.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. So now I have a name for the practise. It’s… not my type of humour, and I’d probably jump at the shock, then walk away. Although, if you might find me with this during a bout of depression, I might not immediately react at all and then give the perpetrator a look of bored scorn as I walk away (and that’s it for my popularity, then).

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    • As a direct recipient, it’s definitely not my type of humour either, and I was pretty quick to say so. Culturally though, kinds in Japan, particularly elementary age kids, tend to be pretty… shall we say hands-on, so it’s just the reality for a lot of teachers, siblings, friends, etc.

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  3. During my time in the German equivalent of junior high school a similar practice was pretty popular in my class. However it involved using a pen or pencil instead of the fingers. Thankfully though, everybody was wearing trousers ^^

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  4. Pingback: In Case You Missed It 2019 #14 – 100 Word Anime

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