Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Props to the Porcelain Goddess

I need to show some love for Japanese lavatories. No one makes toilets like they do here. I was really pumped to take bathroom breaks here, having used a technologically-advanced loo in J-Town (formerly Heisei Market) in Toronto.

The first night I was here, I pored over the button menu on my aunt and uncle’s toilet (picture above), just pressing everything to see what would happen. I find that Japanese toilets, like German toilets, are very environmentally-friendly – there’s always two flush buttons to conserve water: one for number one, and one for number two. Thankfully, I can read Chinese (Kanji in Japan), so I know to press the button labelled “Small” when I take a leak and the button “Big” when I take a dump – pardon me for TMI. There's also a button with a picture of a bum on it for the bum-cleaning spout, and a button with a picture of (presumably) a lady on it for the bidet feature. The smart thing is, those buttons don’t work unless you’re sitting on the toilet...so I put my hand where the sensor is, and promptly got water all over the bathroom floor. Good thing I tried that out before making a video of it! And when you flush, the little faucet at the top releases water into the basin so you can wash your hands – space is at a premium here, you know.

I came across a particularly fun toilet at Shunbou, this stellar Japanese restaurant in Grand Hyatt Tokyo, located in Roppongi Hills. First of all, this restaurant is amazing. Very classy, and the service is incomparable. When you first get seated, they fold up your coats for you, set it in a chair and cover them with this supersoft fabric to protect them. The servers and managers are very attentive but inconspicuous. And the d├ęcor is very tasteful and beautiful, with an open kitchen and ornate, handmade pottery laid out across the main counter. The food is good and very fresh, but not stunning. But I’d go there (provided I could afford it) just for the beautiful surroundings, excellent service and the toilet.

Anyway, after the meal, I decided to skip to the loo, and at first, I was a little turned off at how dim it was in there, even though it was beautiful. There’s art with its own spotlight set into the walls in one of the stalls! The toilets were huge and pink and metallic. I went into a stall and was about to open the lid, when suddenly, it opened by itself! My jaw dropped in delight – I’d heard of automatic toilets before, but I’d never seen one. It was very clean, so I made myself comfy, and of course, the seat was warm. I can’t decide if I like the seat-warming feature because it sort of feels like someone had just recently vacated it, but it’s nice not to get that shock of cold. As is the standard with toilets here, there’s a bidet feature, a bum cleaning feature, and you can control the water pressure as well as where it sprays. However, this particular one also had a blow-dryer for you to use after you’ve used the bidet/bum cleaner. I used it just so I can tell you all about it, of course, but I found that it wasn’t very effective because even after a few minutes of dryage, I still felt the need to follow up with toilet paper. When I was done, I pressed the button to close the lid of the toilet, but I couldn’t resist walking up to it again to re-open it. I know - I’m so mature.

However, I noticed a button on some public toilets that features a picture of music notes. I pressed it, and the toilet emitted this enormously loud flushing noise. You can adjust the volume, but I didn’t really understand what it was for. I guessed that it was for women who were suffering from urinary tract infection (UTI), to inspire their wayward muscles to relax and go. I asked my aunt and uncle to verify, but apparently, that’s not what it’s for. The real purpose of those buttons is to conceal the sound of urination. Apparently, some women are embarrassed by the sound of themselves letting’er rip, so they would keep flushing while they peed to conceal the sound. However, it’s a very wasteful thing to do, so the toilet engineers created this button to save water – isn’t that hilarious?

According to Benjamin Wallace, the most expensive toilet in the world can analyze the contents of the bowl and send the results to your doctor – I wonder if I’ll ever get to see one of those?

1 comment:

Sabrina said...

When I was in high school, there was a period of time when girls would turn on the faucets in the sink before going to the bathroom to mask the sound of pooping.
I found it very irritating - not to mention wasteful.
Some people have odd phobias... People hearing you poop - IN A BATHROOM = not a big deal/really normal stuff
(I guess if you had explosive diarrhea I would kind of get it)
Ok, I'm going to stop.