Reverse Toilet Culture Shock
A terrible tale of number two
I have lived in Japan as an ex-pat for a very long time. In fact, I have lived here for more than twice as long as I lived in the States. And I don’t get back home very often. Sometimes I go more than 10 years before I can work up enough steam to make it back to the Land Of The Big PX.
This is not by design.
I don’t dislike the U.S. or anything like that. It is just that the trip is such a pain.
The last time I made it back to the States was at the end of 2019, a few months before the COVID outbreak would virtually shut down international travel. We went back to see my aging mother, so our trip turned out to be a great bit of good timing.
The international flight to the U.S. was exhausting, just as it always is, but once we got there, we settled right down into a week or so of reminiscing with siblings and cousins, and hanging out with Mom.
The trip would have rated as near-perfect except for one thing… American toilets.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that there is anything particularly wrong with toilets in the U.S. In fact, they are precisely the same as I remember them being when I last visited home. The problem is that they are just so… so… different from what I had grown accustomed to in Japan.
As everyone knows by now, virtually all Japanese toilets are equipped with various unique functions.
On some, sitting down on the heated seat will automatically activate an exhaust fan that blows away unpleasant odors. Some have a button you can press to play music or an artificial running water sound to mask the sounds of embarrassing bodily functions.
But the pièce de résistance of a Japanese toilet is the ability to trigger, at the press of a button, a gentle spray of warm water (temperature and intensity adjustable) that rinses you clean and neat before you even wipe.
Some models even come equipped with air dryers, which, I guess, eliminates the need to wipe entirely.
The first time I walked into the hotel bathroom upon my maiden nature call in the U.S., I stopped short, taken aback by the basic porcelain pot gaping back at me. Panicky thoughts started racing through my head.
Where are all the buttons, flashing lights, and other doodads?
How do you clean up after you’re finished?
I felt a touch of panic as I realized I would be forced to deal with things The Old Way. Though I was in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, I felt as if I had been suddenly transported back to some Pre-enlightenment Dark Age.
I seriously considered forgetting about the whole thing.
Yeah, I thought, I’ll just suck it up and avoid going to the toilet until I get back to the Land of the Magical Privy!
It was only Day 1 of a 10-day stay, and, as we all know, once nature starts to call, she can be a real nag. This is especially true when traveling in an area where the diet is radically different from what you are accustomed to.
So, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, so I did it.
The main event went without a hitch. But the epilogue was as horrible as I had expected it would be.
My longing for my high-tech J-loo grew stronger with each day I spent in America. With great effort and patience, I made it through my trip, but I ended up feeling like I never wanted to travel outside of Japan ever again.
Japanese toilets — modern marvels of toilet technology
Though the features and functions of modern Japanese toilets may seem quaint and humorous to those who do not have one, take it from me; they become must-have items very quickly.
When the “Washlet” (wash+toilet, currently installed in 81% of Japanese households) first made its appearance in Japan back in 1980, I refused to use it. Back then, my favorite lavatory Luddite wisecrack was, “Why would anyone want to have some noisy mechanical gadget moving around and performing all kinds of unknown operations around their nether regions?”
I mean, things get tangled up in machines all the time.
Then one day, after weeks of nag… um, urging from my wife, I literally gave it a shot.
That was all it took. I was instantly hooked on the Washlet and now can’t live without it.
All of this gets one wondering:
Why has the U.S., the country that has split the atom, gone to the moon, created the internet, and given us Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, not been able to evolve a single step beyond pulp-based bum wipe?
As with many mysteries of life, there are myriad theories that attempt to explain the American disinterest in advanced toilet technology. Theories that range from high cost to the fact that Japanese toilets are too much like the bidet, which is looked down upon by the Yanks simply because they don’t want any part of something invented by the French.
Both of these theories sound pretty shaky to me.
One thing I do know is that virtually every American I have come across who has tried a Japanese toilet loves them, misses them, and wonders why they are not being used in the U.S.
- Have you ever tried a Japanese toilet?
- If so, what did you think of it?
- Why do you think Japanese toilets are not popular in the U.S.?
If you have never tried a Japanese toilet, I hope you have a chance to visit Japan someday to take in the vast wealth of culture and history this wonderful country has to offer, and to use the toilet.
And when you use the toilet, be adventurous.
Give that little spray button a press.
You’ll be glad you did!
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