Sunday, April 29, 2007

Toilet talk

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to join a bus tour to Yokohama about three hours south of where we live so we signed up. The tour was sponsored by an internationally known remodeling corporation and the whole deal was free! At 6:30 in the morning we were herded onto a huge tourist bus with about 150 other people (Three buses) and the day began. After a lovely bus trip with snacks and lunch provided, we finally arrived at our destination at around 10:00 Three major companies were having a fair of remodeling products and building innovations and we got to see the future of Japan in the remodeling world!

In honor of the day and after looking at all the new-fangled plumbing options I'm going to explain a little more about yesterday's picture. Quilting Fitzy mentioned something about the toilet Patora was sitting on so hang on to your belt, I'm telling you about toilets today. Whopee!

I spent some time in Japan when I was a college student and one of my first rememberances is when all the American foreign students gathered in a room and debated about how to use a Japanese toilet. Even in the department stores they have the semi-traditional toilets and it was a matter of looking at this thing and trying to figure out which way you faced, how you aimed (women this is a challenge) and not fall down in the process. I'm including a picture I took when I helped a school girl write a report about Japan. No, I usually don't take pictures of toilets.

Japanese have mastered the art of squatting with their heels on the ground and knees high around their necks. This is not a position that most foreigners can manage at all, not to mention for the amount of time it takes to use a toilet. I still have to grab on to walls and pipes around me so that I don't fall backwards or worse yet in! It is also very difficult to keep one's pant legs or skirt off the ground and who knows how the ladies with kimono manage it! Thankfully, there are many options besides the traditional toilet nowadays.

My own family bathroom is just this. That is the whole of the bathroom, a small area no larger than a closet. The normal American features like a sink, a bathtub, showers, mirrors etc. are all in a different room (actually two different rooms) and a toilet is completely utilitarian. There are some compensations however. If you look at the toilet tank you will see a spigot and this ingenious invention is for washing your hands! Everytime the toilet is flushed, clean water comes pouring out of this spigot and goes into the tank to be flushed down the next time. How ecologically sound! Many people decorate this little oasis with colorful stones, plastic flowers etc. I'm sorry I have no decorations to show you.

Another absolutely wonderful feature of Japanese toilets is that the seats are heated! Ladies, this is heaven! A toasty warm throne to sit on and it is even temperature adjustable. This is really nice in Japan because we don't "waste" heat by heating the whole house, just a room at a time so the bathroom in the winter is icy cold. Lovely invention the heated toilet seat!

I must admit that I am really outdated because most of my friends' toilets do fascinating things like shoot water up at you for personal cleaning (do not let a child near this button. They will inevitably want to play in the fountain.) Some bathrooms have lights that turn on automatically and the toilet lid smoothly raises when you enter the room (like an invisible butler... Anyone in here besides me?) Some toilets have lights around the tank bottom so you know where to sit in the dark. (I don't know why) Some toilets flush automatically. One feature I absolutely refuse to use is the little button that you can push that will play the sound of a toilet flushing. This is to cover up nature's true sounds. People were needlessly flushing (and using water) so the toilet people put in this fake flushing sound. This seems to be a big feature in the newer schools in Japan too. Kids too embarrassed to go because they can be heard in the next stall! Good grief!

At yesterday's fair we saw many examples of the toilets of tomorrow. Some that adjust in height depending on the person using it, others that push you to a standing position when you're finished. Some toilet rooms were enhanced with a TV and a touch tone internet screen so that you can do your business while you do your business.

Ah... I wonder if I want to live long enough to see the new toilet wonders in my own house!

I hope to have a more refined topic for tomorrow's post.

12 comments:

anne bebbington said...

Well Tanya - what can I say? I never realised there was so much to going to the bathroom. When we lived in France our house had a downstairs toilet with no sink and an upstairs bathroom with a bath a sink and no toilet. We always felt it best not to touch the handrail on the stairs :o)

Fiona said...

I am amazed - when I saw the first picture on your post (without reading the post) I took a mental step backwards, thinking you had lost it! But it was so interesting - I've just gone upstairs to tell my son all about the extra functions of Japanese toilets (being 10 he still finds toilets quite fascinating).

keslyn said...

Well Tanya, great topic, but very interesting. The heated seats are very nice on a chilly morning. I won't visit public toilets at all after walking into one in a railway station in Japan about 10 years ago, it turned me off for life.
Look forward to your next posting, I wonder what the conversation topic will be. LOL
Kerry

Helen said...

Great post! I had a great laugh and no, I cannot squat!

QuiltingFitzy said...

I read the whole thing outloud to my husband. Yes, he LOVES the bidet, lol. He asked me yesterday if your's was decorated. I said, "yes, if you consider the cat!"

Great post, now we know.

tami said...

I thought it was very interesting. :cD That is one of the major things I love about blogging, learinging about other cultures from the people who are living them.

JudyL said...

This is hilarious! I must say I've learned more from your blog post about toilets than I have most blogs I read! :) I had no idea toilets were so high tech!

Laurie Ann said...

I must say that was a fascinating topic!! Really!

Nettie said...

You know, when I lived in Japan, i was so intrigued by the bathrooms--i mean like tiny WCs in restaurants, bars, etc--that I used to think of doing a postcard book: Toilets of Tokyo. The one in the bar next to Ninnokuniya, for example--tho one of the tiniest i've seen--gives you the feeling you're in a japanese garden for a moment. The water in the sink shoots out of a bamboo spout, past an orchid, onto a bamboo grate. There's a lovely rough slate flooring, if i remember correctly.

Patti said...

Oh my Tanya - this post brought back such memories! When I was 17 I was part of a high school choir that went on a 30 day singing tour of Japan. Two years before our high school had hosted the national champion high school choir of Japan and made friends with the students. We vowed to return the visit at the end of the following school year. This was and always will be one of the most memorable times of my life.

Anyway, our experiences with Japanese style toilets - especially the first time - were a real adventure. We didn't know until we got there that they would be different. This was in 1964. Most of them were the "on the floor" variety. Squating long enough to "do our business" was so hard on our legs! If I remember correctly the was often one "western style" toilet in the rest room in the schools or other public buildings we were in, and we girls would stand in a long queue just waiting to use this one toilet. I think one or two of the Japanese student's homes I stayed in had western style toilets. I certainly never saw one with a heated seat or a fountain in the back for washing ones hands!

Flippytale Quilter said...

Glad you figured out the gymnastics. I had similar experiences while in China last year. The faux flushing sounds in the Tokyo airport really cracked me up, too. After I got used to it I preferred the floor style because it meant less surfaces to touch! Thank you for being bold enough to share!

Flippytale Quilter said...

Here is my picture from my trip to China:
Hope this will open for you...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/flippytale/485714339/