The Magical Japanese Toilets
Recently while I was watching Live! with Kelly, Kelly talked about a "magical toilet" at Bryant Gumbel's house, and at once I thought I must write a hub about this!
Kelly told us about the toilet at Bryant's house, and she said, "It greets you, the seat is warm, it does everything for you but the basics!" (this is from my memory, so it may not be the exact wording.)
Of course, I thought, she's talking about The Japanese Toilet.
We're not talking about the traditional Japanese toilet here which is basically a hole in the floor. It's about the "western" toilet - but with all the buttons and the heated seats and shooting water.
These toilets have started to gain attention in America, but in Japan, they've been around ever since I can remember. My farthest specific memory of one is when my family moved into a newly built house in 1986, and the two bathrooms in the house were each equipped with one of these toilets, but at that time it was already nothing new.
The Heated Seat
For the person who loves gadgets, all the buttons may be intriguing, but the most appreciated feature by the masses is the heated seat.
Japanese houses are seldom heated or cooled by a central heating/cooling system, but each individual room is heated or cooled, when heated or cooled at all. And bathrooms are seldom heated at all, which leads to very cold bathrooms in the winter. Hence, the heated seat in the cold winter bathroom is greatly appreciated.
Additionally, Japanese people put a significant emphasis on heating the midsection of their bodies (and often by extension their feet). Many trains and busses are heated by having the heater in or under the seats, most mothers pull their children's pajama pants up and over the pajama top to "prevent the stomach from getting cold," and there are a large number of products available for heating one's stomach. In fact, when one shows up with a cold at school or work, someone will inevitably say in a teasing manner, "You slept with your stomach uncovered, didn't you?" It is believed that the root of many illnesses stems from the chilled stomach.
What is a barium test?
The Japanese physical exam experience.
I think the notion that the midsection needs to be heated is partly old wife's tale and partly real. Japanese bodies have a longer torso than many other ethnicities, and many have longer intestines. Stomach illnesses are much more of an issue in Japan, and while routine physicals in the US often emphasize heart health tests, routine Japanese physicals emphasize stomach health tests. Whereas Barium Tests are the norm in Japanese physical exams after the age of 30, in the US they are not only not the norm, but are rarely practiced.
So what are all the buttons for?
There's the seat heat on/off button. The bidet button. The wash your bottom button (it's a slightly different positioning of the nozzle that comes out to squirt water on you for the bidet). And in public restrooms (and some private) the Otohime or "Sound Princess" button.
In Japan, it is generally thought that the sound one makes in the bathroom is embarrassing. Therefore, when women use public bathrooms (I'm not sure about men), they often flush the toilet once to several times while using the toilet, then another flush at the end. This leads to a big waste of water, and so the invention of the Otohime. Push this button and you hear the sound of water rushing, but no actual water is wasted. Some public bathrooms have an automated Otohime system (much like auto flushing), and the sound turns on by itself when you sit down.
I had a friend who visited me from Boston, and it was her first trip to Japan. It hadn't occurred to me to explain to her about these automated Otohime toilets, and at the end of the trip she told me that she hadn't been able to use many public bathrooms because upon hearing this noise, she thought the toilets would explode!