Japan Travel Guide

Japan’s Poop Museum Is the Pop-Up We Deserve

PHOTO: Bernardo Ramonfaur - Dreamstime.com

The poop pop-up was always going to happen.

The Unko Museum (Poop Museum) opened in Yokohama, Japan on March 15 and will run through July 15. But don’t worry, you won’t be spending your visit spraying Febreze and checking the bottom of your shoe.

Much like the selfie, the Japanese phenomenon of kin no unko (“golden poop”), is all about finding slivers of joy.

 

The pop-up will exclusively showcase fun, Technicolor renderings of soft-serve-shaped feces. The experience is spread across three rooms that, according to Time Out Tokyo, are centered on some unko (“poop”) related puns: “Un’teractive,” “Un-sta-genic,” and “Un’telligence.” Kids can play in a ball pit that features a colossal unko statue at its center. Adults can take part in the interactive game where they step on light-projected shapes of poop in order to splatter them. And everyone can enjoy an Instagrammable installation made up of pastel-poops hovering in space (one might even be tempted to call them “floaters”).

 

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In addition to these room-based experiences, visitors can meet the museum mascot, Unberuto, a bipedal pile of poop that ambles about carrying a toilet (which feels a little like putting the crap–er, cart before the horse, but that’s the unknowable world of Japanese mascots for you). The museum also features art and souvenirs that are, of course, poop-themed.

This premise is absurd, yes, but there are two separate but similarly unexpectedly beautiful things embodied by the Unko Museum.

The first is that the Unko Museum follows in the footsteps of other temporary pop-up “museums,” (such as the Museum of Ice Cream, Happy Place, and Color Factory) that primarily exist as places where people can come and take photos of themselves. And while there’s something crassly capitalistic about the pursuit of charging people nearly $40 to take pictures for an hour, it’s a designated space where you can go wild with the democratic but much-maligned practice of selfie-taking. It’s not dangerous, it’s not disruptive, it’s what you’re there to do. And that’s not a bad thing. The advent of selfies has given anyone with a smartphone the ability to view and engage with their own self-image in a way that’s historically been reserved for the moneyed classes. Even snapping a quick shot of yourself having a good hair day in natural lighting has value, because the world is mean and life is hard, and every sliver of joy you pull out of it is worth respecting.

 

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The other pre-existing trend that the Unko Museum is in conversation with is that of cute-ified poop. Much like the selfie, the Japanese phenomenon of kin no unko (“golden poop”), is all about finding slivers of joy. A phenomenon that the Unko Museum represents is just the latest iteration. The phrase kin no unko is a play on words in Japanese: the syllables in the word “unko” (“poop”), and the switched syllables to “koun” (which effectively means “good luck”). But this premise goes beyond wordplay, and anyone looking for a little good luck can forego wishbones and rabbit’s feet and pick themselves up a golden poop charm.

Koji Fujii, the president of Ryukodo, a company that makes traditional toys and displays, told the Japan Times about how he got the initial idea for the gilded feces. “Japan was in an economic recession, and the national mood was fairly depressed. I wanted to offer an inexpensive product that would make people smile.” Who knew how wholesome the genesis of gold poop charms could be.

There’s something to be said for the things—even the ones as low-brow as feces, or as disdained as selfies—that make you happy, even for a second. In combining these two unlikely trends, the Unko Museum has hit on a quirky but no less universal truth.