If you've ever been to Japan, you may have been lucky enough to come across one of ultra-modern, futuristic toilets, perhaps in a high-class restaurant, universities or inside a business building. If you haven't been to Japan, then you might have to see it to believe it. Japanese toilets sing to you, flush on their own, and even wash out your behind. Who knew a toilet could do so much?
Photo: buncheduptv on Flickr
If you sit on the toilet and the seat feels warm, don't be grossed out - Japanese toilets have a pre-heated seat to keep your booty nice and warm whilst you're doing your business. This is especially excellent in winter when the weather is cold - it's a pleasant, added comfort that you didn't realise you needed.
A lot of the toilets in Japan have sensors, so they know when someone is coming into the cubicle or bathroom to use them. Many toilets will start to play a sound as soon as your bottom touches the seat, to mask any embarassing sounds you may make in the public bathroom.
Photo: http://vagablonding.com/Sometimes this will be the sound of gushing water, like a natural spring. Other times it might be talking, or even an upbeat musical tune. In some Japanese households, you can even choose the song that comes with your toilet. And don't forget the nifty volume button next to the toilet seat where you can adjust the song or sound to your volume of comfort. A subtle, non-intrusive addition that's useful in public bathrooms.
"Bidet" and "Behind" cleaner
This is probably one of the most famous features of a Japanese toilet - the bidet and bottom cleaner. At the push of a button, you can easily clean out your privates after using the loo. A small jet of clean water is sprayed from the toilet so make sure you don't stand up. It can be a little surprising, but is actually quite pleasant and is excellent for cleaning you up and lets you leave the toilet feeling fabulously fresh. There are temperature adjustment buttons, a "stop" button, and you can use these features as many times as you like to your will.
Photo: *murli*on Flickr
Opening and Closing Toilet Lid and Self-Flushing
This isn't necessarily Japan-specific, but the toilets also flush on their own when you stand up, and you can even spray a deodorizer. In addition, on some toilets in Japanese homes, the lights in the bathroom will turn on and the toilet seat will lift up when you enter the room. This ensures maximum hygiene and energy efficiency, and never having that terrible feeling of "oh no, did I remember to flush?" when your crush uses your bathroom.
Photo: Visual ioner
The OTHER Japanese Toilets
This article is about Japan's 21st century superloos, but let's not forget the other Japanese toilets that almost all foreigners avoid like the plague. This hole in the ground is a 'traditional' lavatory - that often come without toilet paper, and can be found in places like a public park, subway station or street corner. You have to sort of squat, hang and hope for the best. Amazing how these things are still around when they have the super-duper loos.
In a Japanese household, you have to take your shoes off at the door (or more specifically, the genkan, which is the entryway area for the house) and put on house slippers to walk around the home in instead. In the bathroom, you have to take off your house slippers and put on the bathroom slippers whilst you use the toilet. It can be easy to forget to take the slippers off, and I've heard horror stories of people staying with their homestay family and accidentally walking around the living room in the toilet shoes. Another quirky bit of toilet culture from Japan.
Photo: The Taite GalleryExpect many strange, weird and wonderful finds on your trip to Japan. It's an entirely new world, full of great ideas, interesting food, and cultures and customs to learn, respect and enjoy. Keep an eye out for one of these futuristic toilets on your travels.