Not so long ago, myself, and many other foreign residents and visitors to Japan, would grumble about the public lavatories here. I'm referring to a much hated slit-in-the-ground type toilet that can still be found in more remote areas of Japan.
Fortunately, the Western-style lavatory has been steadily replacing the traditional ones for many years.
How it Was. Photo by Matt Perreault on Flickr
However, the Japanese, being ever ready to apply their hi-tech expertise to almost anything, soon improved on the humble toilet seat and the ubiquitous "shower toilet" was born. These can now be found in most homes, office buildings, department stores, colleges and public locations across Japan.
How it Is. Photo by talloracle on Flickr
It Knows You're There!
Actually, all the magic is in the toilet seat, not the pan. Utilising modern sensor technology, the toilet seat knows when you're sitting on it, and when you've got up again; in fact, some will even flush for you!
But while you're sitting on it, you'll have a number of functions to choose from on a control panel usually found on the right of the seat, or mounted remotely on the wall. Let's consider the important ones:
- There's not really a polite way to explain this, but the "Shower Function" is for cleaning one's bum (or butt, if you're American). The button for this has a picture resembling a fountain - there's nothing confusing about any of the functions! The resulting brisk jet of warm water is the most efficient and hygienic way to end a visit to the lavatory, leaving one feeling fresh and confident!
- For women, having often different needs to men, there's the equally effective "Bidet Function" - denoted by a female body symbol with a small fountain underneath.
The "Stop Button" for any of the functions is usually larger and marked with the universal black square symbol.
Controls. Photo by Chris 73 on Wikimedia Commons
As you can see, the shower toilet controls can be quite complicated, with a lot of Japanese and not always written in English too. However, the functional symbols are always easy to understand.
I'm sure a psychologist could write a treatise on the pleasurable aspects of having a warm jet of water aimed at one's most intimate places, but I'll just deal with the practical considerations. For one thing, the water itself is temperature controlled so it's never so hot as to scold sensitive parts, or so cold as to make you jump off the toilet! Some toilets in public places are automatically regulated according to season; at home, you can regulate water and seat temperature yourself (yes, the seats are warmed too).
Water Jet. Photo by Chris 73 on Wikimedia Commons
Clearly, somebody fooled the sensor to take the above picture of the water jet! For obvious reasons, the strength of the shower function jet is stronger than that of the bidet. The jets are directed differently too, and some are articulated or have a massaging effect. Whatever your needs, the modern shower toilet is a joy to use!
Domestic appliances these days feature many more environmentally-friendly modes, and the shower toilet is no exception. With seasonal water and seat temperature adjustments, significant savings in overheads can be achieved at public and company conveniences.
In addition, the shower toilet negates excessive use of toilet paper. In fact, many have a "Blow Dry" function that negates the use of toilet paper altogether. Marked with a wavy lines symbol, this function does exactly what it's intended to do.
Coming to a Loo Near You!
Of course, you may already have experienced a shower toilet in your own country, with consumers demanding ever more convenience and efficiency and turning to the Japanese to provide it. Yet on a recent trip to the UK and four other European countries, I didn't encounter a single shower toilet, in homes, in public conveniences, in hotels or even in airline lounges!
Now, I'm not suggesting the shower toilet seat is a reason for visiting Japan, but at least while you're here, you'll be able to spend a penny in style!