Mama Bear in Menopause Animates The Change
Menopause - a delicate issue for many, especially in Japan. In an effort to "humanize" women and The Change, doctor and manga writer Emi Chida has produced a curious comic featuring a menopausal mama bear.
Soreyuke Konenki (Getting Through Menopause) is the 43-year-old Chida's vision of what living with menopause symptoms in Japanese society is like. Well, except for the bears... yes, this is Disney on steroids, or at least hormone replacement therapy. The adventures of the Kumada family - "kuma" is Japanese for "bear" - are meant to enlighten ordinary people of the human persuasion as to what menopause is and how we should deal with those experiencing it.
Why bears? It's a reflection on how Japanese society differs from Western ways of treating sometimes difficult topics. Whereas we often go for shock value, as in the long-running theatrical production "Menopause Out Loud", Japan instead makes things cute. The intention is to remove the fear and anxiety, leaving, at least in our minds, a slightly disturbing sense of weirdness.
The use of cute, anthropomorphic bears allows Chida to broach sensitive topics like menopause questions, living with depression, lifestyle diseases and metabolic syndrome without unduly upsetting the reader.
As told in Yomiuri Shimbun writer Masao Yamaguchi's recent article , "One day, Kumako Kumada, the 48-year-old housewife of a salaryman, felt dizzy and found herself unable to sleep. Kumada wanted to talk to her husband about the problem, but he is a chauvinistic man who only speaks when he tells her to draw his bath, make his tea and set his bed. Unable to talk to anybody, she collapsed."
Soreyuke Konenki isn't available for sale in retail stores; Chida uses the comics to complement her speeches at medical seminars when she's not working at a clinic she runs with her surgeon husband in northern Japan. Recent publicity may change that policy, however, as Japan's population edges steadily into the gray area beyond Hello Kitty and Kumako Kumada emerges as aging Japan's new "hottie". (via Daily Yomiuri, Japanese articles here and here)