Saturday, October 16, 2010

Mongolian spots

It is said that the origin of Japanese is Mongoloid. That means that their ancestors came from the Mongol area of China. One of the reasons for this theory is most Japanese (80% or more) have Mongolian spots on their buttocks or backs when they are babies.

Mongolian spots are a kind of temporary birthmark (congenital bruise). In the Meiji era, one German doctor found that those spots are frequently observed on people of Mongoloid descent. Therefore, he named it a “Mongolian spot” as a peculiarity of Mongoloids.

Before then (in the Edo era), people believed that having sex while pregnant caused those spots because of internal bleeding. However, there is nothing to this superstition. The truth is that the spot is just remaining melanin pigment deep under the skin and naturally disappears as the baby grows.

In terms of how the spots are considered in Japan, there are some Japanese idioms using this Mongolian spot as a figurative expression like “blue buttocks.” This is used to refer to an immature or inexperienced person. In general, blue is a color associated with inexperience in Japan, but, in this case, the use of the word "buttocks", links this term to Mongolian spots. In Japanese, the word is mouko han.

Since these spots are so common among babies born in Japan, Japanese parents do not concern themselves with them much. However, Western people who see these spots sometimes misunderstand them. They may believe that the spots are large bruises as a result of child abuse. So, it is important to understand this cultural difference in order to know that Japanese parents are not mistreating their babies.






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