Oh fun, time for an annual breast examination. Not that there is any pain involved with the examination. It’s finding time to go to the hospital that’s tough.

The problem is that the breasts are attached to the body, which means the whole body has to make the trip to the hospital. So, if I’m too busy to go to the hospital, my breasts are too.

The result is equal to having to take the kids out of school for a day (or forcing the dog to go to the vet, when he doesn’t want to).

This year I waited till the last day of “breast screening week,” just like everyone else did. So there I was, waiting in the hospital lobby, holding on to ticket No. 147. I’d have to wait through 146 women and 292 breasts. The only good thing about this was that I’d have plenty of time to observe the current state of breasts in Japan.

Let’s start with brassieres. Many of us foreign women don’t buy bras in Japan because, well, they just don’t fit right. I remember growing up in the U.S. with TV commercials advertising the “cross your heart bra,” which claimed to “lift and separate.” Oh, how times have changed!

In Japan, anyway, the mantra is “lift and squeeze.” It’s all about forced cleavage. And padding. Lots of it.

Like this young mother walking into the lobby right now. She has a toddler on each side of her and she is wearing a low cut, scoop-neck T-shirt that exposes her cleavage. Actually, “expose” is not the right word. The bra creates cleavage for her. It works by lifting and squeezing the breasts together, making them look like two ostrich eggs nestled there — that might possibly hatch.

But this woman is just one of the many young sexy mothers in Japan. The kind who walk along in super high heels while cradling an infant, prompting you to think, “I hope that girl doesn’t stumble!” Somehow, they never do. That’s the difference between them and me.

I find Japanese bras very uncomfortable though. It’s that caged-in feeling I don’t like. The lift is so “dramatic” (as the bra companies like to say) that when you look at some women, you’d swear there was a shelf inside propping their breasts up. Makes you wonder what these manufacturers could do with men’s underwear.

Walk into even the most boring underwear store in Japan and you’ll find bras with lace, ruffles, even fur. You get the feeling that in Japan, breasts are expected to multitask. And that’s the idea behind Triumph International (Japan) Ltd., an underwear company that has turned brassieres into accessories here.

Triumph makes a dizzying array of “novelty bras,” such as those emblazoned with the logo of your favorite sports team, or the “shopping bag bra” with pads inside that can be taken out and converted into shopping bags to carry other “goods” you may acquire.

Triumph even makes bras in which you can grow rice: the cups double as vessels for soil. I worry, however, that a bra would not be a good place to insert a trowel. And what do you do about aphids? Plant fungus?

I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit behind the times. I never realized us women were supposed to be communicating through our bras, like some sixth-sense technology.

In 2010, Triumph came out with the “Welcome to Japan” bra that features a button that, when pushed, welcomes you to Japan in English, Chinese or Korean. The purpose of the bra was to welcome Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum dignitaries and to help boost tourism to Japan. Hmm.

If that’s true, they should be doing more bra advertising in Japan. Especially now we could use something really brilliant to promote tourism and make tourists feel that Japan is once again a safe destination.

Like perhaps, a Survival Kit Bra: everything you need to live through a natural disaster. Includes seismograph, Geiger counter, oxygen mask, two-way radio and chocolate.

Or how about a Japanese Language Learning Bra to make studying Japanese easier for female tourists. Never have to dig through your purse or backpack again to find your travel Japanese phrase book. Comes with highlighter, mechanical pencil and eraser. Stores 2,000 kanji, 50 major phrases and 10 practice tests for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Even just enhancing regular bras for those already in Japan would increase the convenience of living here. On the train, I’d enjoy a Bookend Bra, where the breasts serve as bookends and your books can be stored in between. You’ll never be without something to read again (please, no reference books).

No one likes to go to the beach and leave their valuables on the towel while swimming, so a Beach Bra would be able to double as a bikini top, with an added pouch in the created cleavage where you could keep your money, some sun screen, a pair of sunglasses and a hat.

These days you can buy ski jackets with hoods that are wired for sound and connect to your iPod. So why not use those underwires in bras to make them even more uplifting? The Music Bra would be very popular among the young people.

For those wanting to decrease their carbon footprint, how about a Go Green Bra.

Since harvesting rice is hard work, I’d rather see a bra where you can plant a sapling, raise a bonsai tree, or delve into some ikebana. And keep a close eye on it during the whole rearing process.

It’s nice to know there’s a whole new world out there waiting for us women! And when we’re ready to move on to the next bra trend, Triumph will even recycle our bras for us — by turning them into fuel for power generation facilities. What could be more environmentally friendly? Now that’s bra power!

“No. 147 please,” I heard the nurse say.

Finally, it was our turn.

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