The Royal Japanese throne
Arriving early for the interview with her new hat from Japan, Nikita was a shoe-in for the job
How I was left flustered and flushed by the fanciful hi-tech toilets of Japan, by Teddy de Burca Jnr.
Some of you may have been unfortunate enough to have battled through the backwaters of developing countries with the runs. Some of you may have simply needed to do a number two on a night out in the local pub and come face to face with “the toilet from hell”. But whether at home or abroad, we have all been that soldier, up that creek without that paddle, wondering what the hell do I do now?
As a result if you get the runs and happen to be in Tokyo at the time, you will feel compelled (as I did) to congratulate the locals on taking toilet cleanliness and sophistication into the 21st century as you leave. When it comes to toilets, stepping into a Japanese cubicle is like stepping into a heavenly parallel universe. You will not find toilets splattered in urine, or worse. You will not sit down only to discover a paperless-bog roll to your right. You will not have to hold your breath as you go about your business. You will, on the contrary, find clean, well-kept, fragrant facilities everywhere – in bars, restaurants, department stores, cafés, even in run of the mill convenience stores. So if your katsu curry unfortunately leads to a gastrointestinal catastrophe, fear not, there’s help on every corner – and in certain cases so much more.
For those only familiar with the humdrum water closets of the rest of the world, you will be left speechless at the power of a hi-tech Japanese toilet. First a salutary toilet cover uses a proximity sensor so it rises up as you arrive while a temperature controlled seat further ensures a warm welcome. After you’re done, there’s an electronically controlled bidet with options for hot or cold water, rear or back cleansing. You can also control the water pressure and titillate yourself to your heart’s content. Then you can then finish up with a wee blow dry. Even if you’re a man and just taking a quick leak, you’d be tempted to sit down rather than stand up and miss out on all the fun.
Most of these futuristic toilets have automatic air deodorising, or ‘odour absorbing’ capabilities, and there are even models with a faux-flush option, to mask any embarrassing sounds that you might be making – the shame! One toilet manufacturer, Matsushita, is even said to be working on a toilet that will measure weight, fat, blood pressure, heart beat and blood in urine then email the results to your doctor.
Sixty eight per cent of Japanese family homes now feature hi-tech bogs with all of the standard gimmicks above and possibly more. Some can control the room temperature. Others can play relaxing music, Ave Maria is said to be a favourite, though I’d push for Bach’s Air on the G String personally. Criticised for guzzling energy, the latest models even record the lavatory schedules of household members to know when to turn the power on — “Welcome back Mr De Burca… I’ve been expecting you.” If this is the kind of throne that your average Tom, Dick and Haruki get to indulge in, the mind boggles at what embellishments have been added to the Emperor of Japan’s royal throne (I’m thinking drum roll as he prepares, then trumpets or maybe even electronically recorded applause after he ‘makes a splash’).
Not all westerners care for this new fangled gadgetry in the bathroom. The warmed seat makes one New Zealand friend think that someone has just ‘dropped his load’ before he goes in. An Englishman demurs shyly when encouraged to try the oscillating water spray. He’s afraid he might enjoy it and seems genuinely concerned at what that might mean (who knew an electronic nozzle in a toilet could make someone impugn their own sexuality).
Most toilets’ control panels are in Japanese. Although there may also be pictograms tinkering around can be, depending on your viewpoint, either highly confusing, i.e. figuring out how to just flush the thing (of course, it takes care of that by itself, duh!), or a rather pleasant voyage of discovery.
© The Comical Hat at WordPress dot com 2008
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