Japanese doctors are recommending mothers exercise their sons’ penises to guard against phimosis, a procedure championed as “MukiMuki Gymnastics,” and the practice is gaining popularity despite concerns that it is medically unnecessary and may constitute child abuse.
Some context may be required. Phimosis is a condition in which the foreskin of the penis cannot be retracted to fully expose the glans (head) of the penis.
For uncircumcised men, it is usual for the foreskin to be manually retractable when flaccid (limp), and for it to retract naturally when erect.
Phimosis in an adult male implies he cannot retract when erect, a potentially painful and medically dangerous condition which can usually be corrected easily with the application of steroid cream, whilst phimosis in pre-adolescent males is considered normal as the penis and foreskin are not fully developed.
However, Japanese culture incorporates a variety of peculiar beliefs about foreskin retractability and phimosis, to the extent that many Japanese males seem neurotic about the issue and a substantial industry of clinics exists to treat these perceived problems.
As a result of this cultural baggage, Japanese doctors actually divide phimosis into “true” and “false” phimosis, with true implying complete non-retractability and false only that the glans is normally covered by the foreskin when not erect – considered normal everywhere else.
To counter these perceived problems, some Japanese doctors have been recommending mothers regularly retract the foreskins of their sons themselves, and to prevent confusion or unfortunate accidents a doctor has even produced “MukiMuki Gymnastics” (“MukiMuki” is based on the verb “muku,” meaning “to peel” and used in connection with retracting the foreskin), a set of penis exercises designed to ensure full retractability.
A diagram of the procedure prepared to help mothers (this would, in all probability, not be recommended by a non-Japanese doctor):
The practice’s key proponent is Doctor Shinya Iwamuro. He says he has personally examined over 6,000 babies whose mothers have foreskin-related concerns, and thinks the exercises should become a standard child-rearing practice:
“Mukimuki gymnastics will help keep your son’s penis in a hygienic condition. If you undertake the exercises, your son will at the very least be in a state of false phimosis in future, avoiding the risk of penile cancer or sexual problems associated with true phimosis entirely.”
It should be stressed that what Japanese doctors insist on calling “false phimosis” is considered simply a normal (uncircumcised) adult penis everywhere else in the world. Just what he means by “at the least” is that the glans is habitually uncovered even in a flaccid state.
A doctor recommending this “treatment” claims an 80% success rate, although what percentage would go on to be able retract normally if left alone is not mentioned.
Another more sceptical doctor claims 60% of Japanese men have “false phimosis,” or are, in other words, entirely normal.
In answer to an endless stream of questions about “false phimosis” from Japanese men, he points out the ludicrous nature of the issue: “Take no notice. You’re normal! The society which makes you think otherwise what’s abnormal, what’s actually sick here.”
The practice has caused strife amongst some parents – one married couple in their thirties found themselves at loggerheads over the issue.
“When I was getting into the bath I saw my wife fiddling with our son’s crotch, and I became flustered and stopped her. It’s way too early to be worried about him being able to retract!”
“Not only my husband but my in-laws told me it was ‘pitiful for him’ so I stopped. In spiute of the fact I was only thinking of the boy’s future! There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to retract in future so isn’t it better I lend him a helping hand?”
Other mothers have expressed concerns over their son’s penis “not being anything like my husband’s!” and that “if it doesn’t retract, he might be bullied!”
A doctor specialising in urology weighs in, though without offering a clear opinion either way:
“Certainly a lot of parents are worried about this lately. Fathers may not be bothered much, but especially amongst mothers there is a feeling that ‘my husband won’t take me seriously about this.’ They don’t know much about it so naturally they feel concerned.”
There is speculation that the increased concern over “phimosis” (in fact this would likely not be recognised as such outside Japan) amongst Japanese parents, chiefly mothers, is tied to the rise of the nuclear family and lower birthrates – many younger women may never have seen an unretractable foreskin until becoming a mother and seeing that of their infant son, and so become concerned.
Japan’s medical community is still split on the issue, with some doctors recommending the “treatment” and others advising restraint, although few bother to challenge the notion of “false phimosis.”
Whatever the outcome of the controversy over “mukimuki gymnastics,” Japan’s bizarre cultural obsession with phimosis seems unlikely to abate any time soon.