Prolegomenon to a History of Shit in Japan
This chapter presents a comprehensive history of shit in Japan and shit's environmental consequences. It argues that shit is something useful—a source of benefit for the individual and the nation—and that even if useful shit is still yucky, its yuckiness is trumped by its utility, especially as fertilizer. The chapter first discusses shit as a natural resource, focusing on the idea that some people's feces are particularly potent. It then considers how poop was embraced as an object of utility during the Tokugawa and Meiji periods. It also looks at notions of the nature of excrement—the shittiness of shit—from an agronomic perspective. Finally, it examines shit as a valuable commodity in urban centers such as Edo and Osaka, and how competition for night soil and urine led to all sorts of conflict.
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