A mushroom photographer and avid conservationist has become one with nature — by defecating outdoors for the past 45 years.
Masana Izawa decided long ago to forgo conventional, indoor toilets in favour of secluded areas outside his home in the Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo.
The 69-year-old has been relieving himself in the open air since 1974, after becoming embroiled in a fight to stop a waste treatment plant being built.
As he looked at the “dead river” of feces that ran through his neighbourhood, and heard the arguments of those fighting against an industrialised solution, Mr Izawa realised no one was willing to take ownership of their waste.
So he decided he would.
Mr Izawa still remembers the first time he left the comfort of his bathroom and dropped his trousers outdoors.
“Even though it was very different from the previous defecation in the toilet, it was not physically and mentally uncomfortable,” he told MirrorOnline.
In fact, Mr Izawa experienced “great joy” at feeling fully responsible for his excretions for the first time.
While some people may have filed the trip outdoors in the ‘one-off’ cabinet of human experiences, he became fully committed to the cause and, almost five decades on, remains an enthusiastic advocate for open defecation.
Combining the act with his day job as a published and well-respected photographer of mushrooms and mosses, Mr Izawa has perfected the act of outdoor defecation to a point of near totality.
In the past 19 years, he has used a toilet just 14 times and made more than 15,000 open air bowel movements.
Underpinning his commitment to the act is a well-considered philosophy based on the circularity of nature.
Human society has reached a point where we are removed from the everyday ebb and flow of the natural world, Mr Izawa argues.
Whether it’s sending toilet waste to a treatment plant, cremating and entombing loved ones, or factory farming animals, industrialised civilisation extracts resources from the earth and does not return them in processable forms.
“To eat is to take life, but it’s also our right,” he explained.
“To poop is a responsibility we need to be aware of. To poop outdoors is a way of giving back life.”
Mr Izawa has observed how quickly his work has helped to connect and revive parts of the natural environment.
A few days after he covers over a shallow makeshift toilet with earth, its contents are teeming with life.
“If (you’re) an ant, it’s a fairy tale candy house,” he explained.
The effect on trees can also be significant, with human manure stretching their roots and encouraging symbiotic forms of fungi to grow that allow for the absorption of inorganic salts and water in the soil.
In other words, human poo can help nature in its daily effort to purge soil of synthetic waste.
For the past 13 years Mr Izawa has been spreading his philosophy through regular talks held across Japan.
Although he does not know how many others have joined the movement, the reception is generally positive.
“There are criticisms of noguso (outdoor defecating), with some saying that it's unsanitary, dangerous, illegal etc,” he explained.
“But I have never been told not to do it.”
In almost half a century of relieving himself in the wild, Mr Izawa has only been caught in the act once – by a homeless man in Tokyo.
And if the authorities were to stumble upon him, the punishment would likely be a fine of 10,000 Yen (£71).
For those looking to join Mr Izawa in his noguso journey, he recommends the following process:
Select an appropriate location so as not to contaminate the alpine zone and water source where the decomposition power is weak.
Make sure to dig a hole and fill it.
Do not wipe with paper that is difficult to disassemble, but use leaves and water.
Prevent soil eutrophication (the excessive enrichment of water due to soil runoff)
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