“Psychiatry’s chief contribution to philosophy is the discovery that the toilet is the seat of the soul.” ~ Alexander Chase
“Castro couldn’t even go to the bathroom unless the Soviet Union put the nickel in the toilet.” ~ Richard M. Nixon
“Today, the degradation of the inner life is symbolized by the fact that the only place sacred from interruption is the private toilet.” ~ Lewis Mumford
Weirdly funny Japanese toilet commercial
Using the toilet in Japan can be, at first, a quite scary endeavor. Hanako-san (トイレのはなこさん “Hanako of the toilet”) is a Japanese urban legend about the spirit of a spooky young World War II-era girl who haunts school bathrooms across Japan. She allegedly appears when one says her name three times. Three figures prominently with this Asian version of Harry Potter’s Moaning Myrtle, although not nearly as entertaining, cute, and perhaps with a much naughtier twist.
According to the legend, a person who wishes to see Hanako-san must go to the third stall in the girls’ bathroom on the third floor and knocks three times before saying her name…you guessed it, three times. After that, if that person still has the “guts” (pun intended) to enter, she will encounter a small, young girl with bobbed black hair, dressed in a red skirt. Note to self: avoid the third stall when I try to convince Jody to take a break for some afternoon delight (wink).
Hanako-san is a popular and widespread urban legend, often used by school children as a rite of courage or as a method of hazing. Depending on the agenda at hand, Hanako-san acts as a mischievous, malevolent or benign wraith of the water closet. And, of course, there are widespread claims that anyone courageous enough to open the door after taunting the spirit is immediately pulled into the toilet.
And, in what I can only conclude as a truly devious plan of various school administrations and PTA’s working in close, secret collusion, it is said that one ever needs to get rid of this particular poltergeist – and this is where a really cool urban takes a detour directly to nerd-ville – showing her a graded exam with a perfect score (or “good grades”) makes her vanish into thin air. Ah, youth: always wasted on the young.
Apricot Wash?? And, are we to assume that apricots have bung-holes in need of washing?!? See below.
A Westerner’s first interaction with a modern Japanese bathroom can be like a Close Encounter of the Third Kind. In fact, sitting on one of their electronic toilets, I often find myself thinking of myself as Admiral William Adama, firmly in command of the Battlestar Galatica, where I can inquire with my XO (2nd in command), “Who does Number Two work for!!?!!”
The pictures here of Japanese facilities are from Kansai Airport near Osaka, Japan. Kansai happens to be my favorite airport in the world, and is consistently in the 10 ten list of best airports since it opened. And tickle-my-fanny and color-me-crazy, how bathrooms in Japan have changed from their traditional “squatters.”
Yep, you can still find these historical holes, and in some places, this is your only option if you really gotta go. In fact, Jody and I both found ourselves in dire need of relief recently in Kyoto. Out on a hike through the Arashiyama (嵐山) “path of bamboo,” we had no choice but to use such facilities. Now, neither of us is a fan of these squats-and-squirts. One of my favorite (and only) jokes about the difference between Air Force and Naval Aviators is this: “flare to land, squat to pee….” As the joke implies, squatting can be somewhat emasculating, especially for a Westerner who’s squatting muscles are not quite limber enough for such a laboratory. Luckily, many have directions for use, and if you’re really lucky, you have a squat bar to hang onto and bear down on. I can neither confirm nor deny if I have ever played the role of the mad crapper as pictured; as a trained bombardier-navigator, I will admit I’m rather ashamed of my…”accuracy.”
Before we get knee-deep in more potty humor, john jokes and privy puns, we find that modern bathrooms in Japan are extremely well-appointed. There is a fold-down false floor that can be used for changing clothes. And how many times do you wish you had THAT? For me, often enough to think of the Japanese as porcelain prodigies for considering this eventuality.
There is hand and toilet seat sanitizer provided, along with handles for those times where a little additional leverage is required to make your movements properly. There is a nifty wall-mounted child seat nearby and of course a video screen for enhanced entertainment. Personally, I have always considered the toilet a quiet refuge from the world where, in my middle age, I seem to get the majority of my reading done. My entrails are not entertained.
But then we come to the throne, no one offers porcelain pride like the Japanese. They start with dual seat tops, for adults and children (why don’t we do that??). But, it gets immediately better: the seats raise and lower automatically, and are HEATED! You cannot imagine how agreeable this touch is on your tush. And all these comforts and conveniences are at your fingertips via remote control. Hell, you can even buy a toilet in Japan that operates via Bluetooth. Forget starting your car from your phone, I can remotely clean my ass in Japan all from my iPad, from which I can read, simultaneously.
Yes, “showering” toilets have become the standard in Japan. I’m not sure what the difference between a commode’s “hip wash” and “bidet,” but I can assure you that the warning about not pushing the buttons without covering the commode (with hips or lips, as it were) is extremely well-founded. In a pinch, you could wash your hair with the result, standing up. And if your latrine requires a line diagram of a certain complexity and magnitude, you really should heed the warnings prior to using such a privy on your privates! Oh, and washing is not enough; the commodes also will dry your derriere. In a way, one can consider Japanese toilets as the car wash equivalent for your rump and bump.
In Japan, the vernacular “water closet” is really the proper way to think of bathrooms. The rooms are generally waterproof, complete with floor drains, where water is used not just for washing hands, but for all those nether regions which seldom see the light of day…or have the opportunity for blow-dried hair styling (for those who don’t man-scape).
Shit happens. And in the Far East, as you can see and tell, that means just another amusing adventure.