Japanese women have sudden urges to defecate when visiting book stores.

Yes, you heard me correctly.

This is called “The Mariko Aoki” phenomenon named after one of the first women to notice this strange and unfortunate occurrence.

Hey, I always have to poop when I go to the bookstore. Especially if it’s a big bookstore. That’s odd. I wonder why? Is it just me?”

Ask any Japanese woman if she’s ever had a sudden urge to go to the bathroom while innocently browsing books or manga and the majority will cry a painful YES.

They may not know it’s called the Mariko Aoki phenomenon, but they sure as hell know what you’re talking about. I know this because I’ve asked. Japanese people are comfortable talking about their bowel movements, so they’re surprisingly matter-of-fact about the whole thing and it’s not as awkward as it seems.

In a survey that asked what factors Japanese women found most important when visiting bookstores, “having a good toilet” was in the top three.

People have tried to figure out what causes this powerful and often violent reaction. Is it biological or psychological? Something in the books perhaps? Or just a big conspiracy?

Here are the main theories:

  • The chemical in books and/or ink causes a physiological response and a subsequently explosive bowel movement (this one seems the most likely).
  • The sight of books triggers memories of trauma from childhood (like getting punished in school) causing tension/nervousness to build up, which immediately wreaks havoc on the gastro-intestinal tract.
  • It’s a mass delusion that developed after the phenomenon became popularized, so people who heard about it subconsciously began to believe it was true.
  • People associate book reading with their homes because that’s where they tend to go to the bathroom and where they tend to read books. This is called a “Pavlovian effect” resulting from neural coupling.
  • Or a mix of all four.

While there have been a lot of studies and surveys conducted to try and nail down what the cause is, surprisingly, it doesn’t seem like there’s been a very good scientific study. In other words, one with a large enough sample size to make real conclusions.

Without a real understanding or cure to this day, women all around Japan are left with one choice — that is, to actively avoid bookstores in hope of thwarting any potentially embarrassing disasters.

**To be fair, some men have reported experiencing this phenomenon as well.

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