Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An indelicate subject

We went to Nikko today, up to the mountains to see the shrine and temple complex. We took a lot of pictures – that will have to be another post. Instead, today I want to tell you about bathrooms. Or, to be more specific, Japanese toilets. Wow – such in infinite variety! And I’m not even talking about Japanese style toilets – I’ve manage to avoid those altogether.

The Japanese love of gadgetry has been applied to toilets, producing appliances that need instruction manuals. Heated seats with temperature controls are pretty much standard everywhere. Dual flush mechanisms are fairly common, too, although they don’t use simple symbols. And since we can’t read the Japanese characters we have a 50/50 chance of getting either half or full flush…. Its the options for – shall we say – undercarriage rinsing that can be surprising. Some have simple controls attached to the side of the toilet seat itself – simple pictures. And then you get something like this:


complete with time….. Or this one:


That’s the men’s room. Ladies’ room at the same facility was so confusing that someone had put a little paper sign ‘flush’ to give us a clue.

And I’m not even talking about the startling sound effects. Apparently Japanese women are quite modest about having anyone hear what they might be up to, so they flush the toilet immediately upon entering the cubicle, then get on with their business, then flush again. Big waste of water. One solution is to have either music play, or the sound of water. Which can be a surprise if you don’t expect it.

Oh – and this was a whole new one at one hotel:


I’ll have to say, though, that the facilities are spotlessly clean. Often, in the West, if you want to come up with a synonym for disgusting ‘as bad as a train station toilet’ will suffice. Or even worse  - ‘a subway toilet’. Not so, here. Absolute palaces. Public restrooms on the street – no problem. Quite a change from some places we’ve been to.

This leads to a situation that Wilf has run across. In the train station there are the pink ladies. Usually older ladies, in pink uniforms. When the big trains pull in a team of pink ladies will descend upon each car and in a flurry of sweeping, tidying, washing and polishing will whip that train car into perfection in a matter of minutes. In the Kyoto station one morning  Wilf was gone for a long time. When he appeared he said that he was rather taken aback because one of the pink ladies was in the men’s room cleaning the sinks – didn’t seem to concerned that he was there. And yesterday when we arrived at the Tokyo station he came back from a visit. The men’s was very busy but at the urinal next to him was a pink lady, cleaning away. Two more were standing back by the wall having a grand old chat, seemingly oblivious to the activity around them.

No comments:

Post a Comment