Musings On A Japanese Toilet

by Gabriella Ribeiro
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City: Tokyo
Country: Japan

When I first traveled to Japan, I was ready. 

I knew all about the astronomical prices (yet still experienced mild sticker shock when I actually saw them with my own eyes on everything from menus to taxi meters to lipstick).  I learned the right way to get onto a subway. I practiced my business etiquette.  I learned how to bow properly and even how to present my business card.

What I was NOT prepared for, however, was the toilet.  Let me explain.

I’ll set up the scene here…it’s about 7:30 PM local time, which could have been 3 AM for all I knew after about 20 hours of flights, airports, taxis and mediocre food.  The hotel was fantastic- swift check-in, comfy bed, whisper-quiet halls, and all the fun high-tech gadgets I could want.   I could hardly wait to see the amenity selection in the loo and and get freshened up.  But, I was stopped in my tracks by this ridiculously monstrous thing jutting out of the wall.

I eyed it skeptically, cautiously, and then I stopped in my tracks. What is this contraption that looks curiously like a warped cross between a regal throne, hospital chair, and something right out of the set of a futuristic space film?  Maybe I’m imagining this due to the lack of sleep and jet-lag.  No, it’s really there.  Still suspicious I went in for a closer look.  The Japanese toilet was like nothing I had ever seen. Amazed but horrified, how DO I go to the bathroom on this thing?

Now, I like to consider myself an intelligent person, an ultra-savvy traveler with a keen sense of adventure, but I was nervous.  What the heck do I do first?  Do I sit on this thing or does it pick me up and place me on it?  I decided to hold off a bit and do a further inspection.  All I can say is WOW- this thing cleans itself, it somehow magically resists bacteria with some hermetically sealed self-sanitizing seat that heats your rear end too.  A button to automatically open and close the lid for our germophobic friends that even goes by gender- a different lift for men than for women.  Enough of this, I thought, it’s time to test this thing out.

As I sat there, gleefully testing out all the settings much like a toddler tests out a new toy sitting upon a seat that’s too high for his or her feet to touch the ground, I noticed there was entertainment!  Classical music, Japanese pop, or just white static noise…genius.  I can update myself on the latest hits while covering up the sound of my flush too (because face it, it’s seriously something to be embarrassed about.  Rather, wouldn’t someone on the outside rather think you were weird or nasty if you didn’t flush?)  Still trying to work that one out.  And what’s that right there?  Choice of air freshener? Score! Let’s go with the fresh pine forest.  And that button on the left?  Oh good grief-  a digital timer (like, do I really need to know how long I was on the toilet?)  And then in the middle of this, the toilet phone rings… it’s one of my work compatriots screaming in my ear telling me he just apparently gave himself a boiling hot enema (to quote him directly).  OK note to self, resist urge to press the “red” button. 

I’m just about to finish and then OMG. There it is.  The ass button…(pic attached).  I couldn’t read the writing so I just figured I’d take a chance. 

All I can say is, it was one-stop-shopping- a backside massaging, water temperature-controlling, rear-end washing service complete with a blow dryer.

Never in my life…  and so it went, every day, every loo, another adventure.  Curious, strange, sometimes frightening but always entertaining…the Japanese toilet. 

And yes, I’d buy one for myself in a heartbeat if I could track one down.