Japanese people sitting more like Yankees than yankees these days.

Every once in a while, on social media, I see a video like the following which depicts a morning after a wild night in Kabukicho and personally, I think it reveals a disturbing trend in Japanese society.

I may be old-fashioned, but I remember a time when the youth of Japan wouldn’t be caught dead sitting directly on the ground like a bunch of beatniks and hippies. But now, it seems only four or five of those kids remember that a true Japanese youth embracing the spirit of rebellious freedom favors squats!

Fans of manga, anime, or movies depicting rough and tumble youth for most of the latter 20th century will likely have seen characters squat in a manner with both feet flat on the ground and knees bent all the way so their butt almost touches their ankles while hovering just above the ground.

In Japan, this pose is known as “yankee zuwari” or “yankee sitting.” It’s named after the subculture of working-class ruffians known as “yankees” because they sometimes adopted American fashions like duck-ass pompadours and baseball bats… although not often used to actually play baseball. This style of sitting was said to have been used because it looked menacing while also keeping one’s clothes tidy.

▼ Kitakyushu is known for its high yankee population, so you’re likely to see them lavishly dressed and yankee sitting at its annual Coming of Age Day ceremony.

This makes it rather ironic that experts are blaming the Westernization of Japanese culture for this decrease in yankee sitting. On one hand, in these days of fast fashion, it seems people aren’t as concerned with keeping their Uniqlo khaki slacks clean as one might a special attack uniform.

However, there’s also a physical component to it. Squat toilets were very common in Japan until only the last two decades or so when Western toilets, which let you take a load off in more ways than one, shot up to over 97 percent in terms of usage. This resulted in an entire generation of younger Japanese people who grew up without the need to exercise their ankles and calves on a regular basis.

▼ In this news program segment, the middle-aged-and-up panel could all do the yankee sit, whereas many youths interviewed on the street could not.

This is unfortunate because being able to do this kind of squat would suggest a good degree of strength and flexibility in your ankles and calves which can go a long way in alleviating all kinds of full-body stiffness and pain going into old age.

It’s something that a lot of Japanese people don’t think about in their daily lives, so when the news that yankee sitting is endangered hit the Internet, many comments expressed surprise.

“I did not know that.”
“Yeah, I can’t use a Japanese-style toilet.”
“I think only people in Fukuoka sit like this nowadays.”
“I never had the chance because I wasn’t a yankee.”
“I tried it and almost pooped myself.”
“Any yankee who can’t sit like a yankee ought to be ashamed.”
“I’m fat so it’s painful to stand back up from that position.”
“I still use a Japanese toilet, so I can sit like that for a good 10 minutes.”
“Most kids who grew up in the West can’t do this.”

It’s been said that only about 13 percent of Americans can sit like yankees, bearing in mind that to do it properly your feet must be flat on the ground. In fact, in the West, this form of sitting is generally called the “Asian squat” because most people in Asian countries seem able to do it easily.

▼ Luckily, it is possible for anyone to acquire the skill with a little practice.

However, while this kind of squatting is considered a normal thing to do in a lot of Asian countries, Japan seems unique in that it’s become largely associated with a certain subculture in the form of yankees. That may have something to do with its gradual decline here in particular, which is sad because it used to add a bit of flair to the seedier parts of town.

Source: Shueisha Online, TBS News Dig, People’s Daily, Itai News
Featured image: ©SoraNews24
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