Asia

Lesson number two: Japan enlists Prof Poo to teach children about paying taxes


Japan’s government is hoping that children’s fascination with bodily functions will help them appreciate the importance of paying taxes when they reach adulthood.

Years after he fuelled huge sales of school textbooks, Unko-sensei [Professor Poo] has been enlisted by the finance ministry’s tax agency to appear in a brochure as part of a campaign to engender an appreciation of the role of the treasury among the nation’s youngest citizens.

The character, who is shaped like the eponymous emoji and sports a handlebar moustache and round spectacles, explores topics such as the consumption tax – a 10% levy on goods and services children pay every time they buy a bag of sweets. One of the questions he poses to children in the brochure is: what do poo and tax have in common? The answer: fertiliser, since both are used to grow things.

The character behind the brochure, which is to be distributed to primary schools across Japan, will be familiar to millions of children who have him to thank for their ability to memorise hundreds of kanji characters.

A series of kanji study books featuring Unko-sensei became a hit when they were released in 2017 by the Bunkyosha publishing company.

The books have sold around 5 million copies, according to the publisher, meaning that two in every three Japanese primary schoolchildren own a copy.

The scatology-inspired Unko Doriru (poo drills) exercise books proved so popular that officials in the rarefied corridors of the finance ministry were reportedly receptive when Bunkyosha’s founder, former Lehman Brothers employee Shuji Yamamoto, approached them with the idea. Now they are banking on Unko-sensei doing for tax what he has already done for kanji components and stroke orders.

“We hope the drills prompt elementary school students to take an early interest in taxes,” a ministry official told the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.



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