Apr 16, 2015

The Japanese and the Sound Princess!

In many ways, Japan still remains a mystery to the rest of the world. For here, the ancient and the modern not only coexist but seem to do so in great harmony. The land of the rising sun is as comfortable with its bullet trains and cutting edge technology as it is with Zen and Geishas.

Japan has a unique culture, with its own peculiarities and quirks that seem natural to the Japanese but intrigue all foreigners.

I have already written about the Japanese love for the Hot Bath. Lets take things a little further today and talk about the Japanese Toilet ! 

A lot of things have shocked and amazed me about Japan but nothing has left me more flummoxed than the Japanese Toilet. 
On my very first visit to Japan, I stumbled off my flight half asleep and entered the airport loo, only to be confronted by a bidet that had so many buttons and controls on it; it almost rivaled an airplane cockpit. 

Scary. Especially when you come from the land of lota and running water! 

Once you have used a Japanese toilet, cleaning your butt will never be same again. Thanks to their fetish for using technology everywhere, they have turned the morning perch on the throne into a total pleasure ritual. 

The Japanese bidet literally spoils you for choice with its various butt cleaning options. By simply pressing a few buttons, you can choose exactly what part of your ‘tenderness’ you want the water to hit. You can also adjust the water temperature as well as the pressure by choosing between a low pressure setting, a high speed jet stream or a massage feature with oscillating and pulsating streams of water(ahem!). After you are squeaky clean, just press another button to let warm air gently dry your behind. It’s rather a surprise that a hand doesn’t shoot out to tenderly pat and powder the said area as well. 

Earlier the Bidet panel used to be only in Japanese leaving most of the foreigners totally baffled and intimidated. Fortunately most of the modern bidets now come equipped with rather graphic pictures or English explanations otherwise the non-Japanese speakers literally wouldn’t know what hit them and where! 

Even now, some of the hotels have signs in their toilets that request the user to make sure he is sitting on the seat before pressing any button. Or the poor unsuspecting, bumbling foreigner might just have water squirted all over him!

The more technologically enhanced washrooms also give you deodorizer spritzers, motion sensors that open the lid when someone walks in and a flush that will run as soon as you get up.

Another fantastic feature that I totally appreciated during winter was the seat warmer. This lets you adjust the temperature of the seat so that you have a nice, toasty warm place to sit on. Infact during the Japanese winters, the throne might be the most comfortable place to be on, since Japanese homes hardly have any central heating to speak of!

In most Japanese homes, the toilet is in a separate area from the bath. Such throne among thrones, you would think, certainly deserves its own space. The toilet enclosure however, is just big enough to accommodate a medium sized person. Anyone taller than average (and the rest of the world is usually taller than the Japanese average) will have trouble fitting in. I know of an almost 6 ft 4 inches tall Canadian friend who actually has to sit with the door open and his knees sticking out!

The Japanese save water as well as space in the most ingenious manner. Most homes have a toilet with a small sink mounted on the cistern. When you flush, the tap on the sink automatically releases water. As you wash your hands, the water goes inside the cistern, to be used the next time someone flushes. 

Something that speaks volumes about the Japanese aversion to anything even slightly indelicate is the ‘Oto Hime’ or the ‘Sound Princess’. Japanese women being the sensitive sort, hate the sounds that betray their activity inside the toilet. The solution till a few years back was to flush continuously to drown all other sounds. 
 Then an enterprising Japanese company thought of a small device that emits a sound whenever activated. So now by just pressing a button, the Japanese ladies can camouflage all noises and do their business in peace and without embarrassment. The camouflaging sound can be anything, a soothing tune, a song, or even the sound of a flush running.

In my humble opinion, along with eating Sushi, taking a dip in the Onsen and wearing a Kimono, using a Japanese toilet should rank as one of the greatest cultural experiences of Japan.

It takes a while to get the hang of such comforts, but once you do, you wonder about the primitive manner in which you have been using the washroom till now. It will make you forget about buying the usual camera and laptops, all you would want to do it is smuggle home a Japanese Toilet!

If you enjoyed reading this post, you might like to read more about quirky Japan !  Please click here to read the rest of my posts in the Japan and I Series. 

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