The application Un-Kore aims to promote medical checks for colon cancer using pretty girl personifications of the colon bacillus.
The volunteer group Japan Poop Association was founded by Yousuke Ishii, a gastroenterologist, and Tomohito Kinose, an engineer. They developed the app to promote medical check-ups for colon cancer.
The Un-Kore app was first announced to the public as a prototype at Digigame Expo in 2014. They then joined Game Party Japan 2015 in the following year, and various web media and magazines introduced it and created a buzz.
Yousuke Ishii said the following at one of his interviews back then:
Colon cancer is hard to find without checkups because its symptoms are hardly noticeable. Unfortunately, people hardly undergo medical exams for it in Japan. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare of Japan has been spending money trying to promote it, but its examination rate doesn’t increase at all.
So, I investigated the situation on my own, trying to think of a way. I thought it needed something that reaches people’s hearts.
Then, I decided to do something funny and get people spreading the word for it, and after various thoughts, I came up with the term ‘unko (poop).’ That was the start.
“Personification of colon bacillus! The reason why the gastroenterologist developed this game app “Un-Kore”” (published on January 31, 2015)
After two years, has the rate of people taking examinations for colon cancer increased through the activities of Japan Poop Association?
We asked Tomohito Kinose, an engineer and co-founder of the association, as they had their exhibition booth at Marunage Area at the event Game Party Japan 2017, held on February 11 and 12.
Kinose: In the beginning, we informed those at Niconico related sites, then joined Tokyo Game Show and such to let more people know, and got it introduced via various media including magazines. I do feel that more people got interested in the checkups for colon cancer and learned about it.
I’ve actually heard that some people tested positive, but we can’t really talk about the real effects of the app because we haven’t officially released it yet. It’ll be some time later before we know more about it.
To tell you the truth, we are going to have a demonstration experiment with Fukuoka city, starting this year. We will test to find out if Un-Kore actually encourages people to have stool tests, if the app is more effective than posters and such.
Fukuoka city has been publicly offering opportunities through a program called Fukuoka City Demonstration Experiment Full-Support (A public domestic program for unique techniques and ideas to have demonstration experiments. The accepted projects receive full support from Fukuoka city for the experiments in Fukuoka). I made a winning presentation there and got accepted.
──What will the experiments be like specifically?
Kinose: We have one group of citizens randomly chosen to use the Un-kore app for about 3 weeks, and ask them if they would have checkups for colon cancer using the app message, while we have another group of citizens who haven’t used the app (but instead have them record their stool checks on calendars or such) and ask them if they would have checkups. And we will see which group of people tend to actually decide to have the checkup for colon cancer.
Un-Kore is recognized by people in the pop-culture scenes, but not everyone knows that we are doing legit medical activities. We will be proving that medical experts can recommend this app with confidence.
The Japan Poop Association has been gradually getting a lot of visibility through the events Game Party Japan and Tokyo Game Show. The association does not have practical data that proves the effectiveness of its activities. However, a local government has recognized them and decided to collaborate with them in order to climb aboard the medical scene.
The experiment is scheduled to start in August this year. The app will be officially accepting pre-registrations in August after the long delay of its official release.
Un-Kore is a game app where you fight enemy characters by tapping, defeating them, and experiencing the narrative of a fictional story.
It also has a calendar to record your daily defecation, and your defecation records let you play gacha (similar to capsule machines) to win special items to benefit your main gameplay.
On the defecation calendar, you can record whether you emptied your bowels or not, the color of your feces, and the system navigator asks you what you ate the previous day or if you’re on diet and so on depending on your records, and even gives you various advice such as ‘Don’t worry, this isn’t bad’ according to what you input.
Kinose is the engineer who designed and implemented the system and various functions. So, what made him join Japan Poop Association?
Kinose: Practically, the two of us, Dr. Ishii and I, started this association, but I had originally been hacking computers as my job for a long time. Actually, I was involved with the development of Niconico Douga, and I was a part of the executive committee of Niwango (which has now merged with Dwango). After having worked at Niwango and having hacked various stuff, I wanted to hack people.
I was pondering every day about ‘what could I do to change people’s behavior and make things better?’ when I incidentally met Dr. Ishii. And then I thought, well, wouldn’t it be nice to change someone’s life via a game?
Currently Japan Poop Association has about 200 people registered, but there are only about 30 core active members. According to Kinose, some might assume that the association has already closed the registration and hesitate to join them, but they are still accepting registrations. （外部リンク）
Finally, I asked about the risk of colon cancer.
──Is there a risk for a young person in their twenties like myself to get colon cancer?
Kinose: Yes, there is. Needless to say, those in their forties have a bigger risk, but some people do get colon cancer even in their twenties. You know, like the young idols who meet with an untimely death. No matter how young, we can help some lives from being lost.
Colon cancer is easy to find only if you do a regular checkup, and early detection of it significantly raises your survival rate. You just have to go to hospital for the checkup, and if you live a bit too far away from a hospital, you could also buy an exam kit from Amazon too.