How to Gargle (Ugai Garagara)

Now, this is serious stuff. Today on “Mezamashi Terebi,” a popular morning TV show, they had a fairly long, scientific-sounding introduction to ”ugai” or gargling. They stated that it’s only really popular here in Japan, where all kids are taught ”ugai-tearai,” or gargling and hand-washing, from when they are toddlers. They had mini-interviews with a bunch of foreigners asking if they had the culture of gargling. Mostly, they didn’t, or they did heathen things like drinking the gargle medicine! The horror!

I know where I grew up in the US, it was only recommended when we had sore throats and not really for every day, but here in Japan, it’s been incessant, and it is truly part of the culture. Ugai-tearai shita? comes the regular inquiry. Did you gargle-and-wash-your-hands (you filthy mutt, implied)?

But, what don’t you know about ugai-tearai? Mezamashi TV (and my mother the nurse) to the rescue:

  • Use accepted brands like Isojin if you can, but saltwater or even green tea works too.
  • Do a swish-swish through your teeth with the gargle first, and spit it out.
  • Sing while gargling, to open up the throat and change its shape, thereby getting the gargle medicine on as much of your throat as possible. You can try a rendition of ”sukiyaki”. Ue wo muiiite, aaaaruko-o-ooh…
  • Tilt your head from side to side, to let the gargle hit the sides of your throat.
  • Don’t drink the gargle. Spit, for Pete’s sake!

Of course with all the Swine Flu going around, maybe it’s time to learn to “ugai garagara”. For your reference, “garagara” is the onomatopoeia in Japanese for the sound of gargling. Good gargling.