My first encounter with a Japanese toilet was at the Shin Chitose airport close to Sapporo. I carried a lot of heavy bags so I entered the more spacious toilet for disabled to avoid confining myself in a small cubicle. I couldn’t at this first time understand what all the options of the instrument panel meant so I just sat down to execute my usual procedure. Instead of a cold touch to my backside the toilet seat was comfortably heated. Some kind of ventilator began to twirl. Then a young japanese female voice coming from behind suddenly started talking to me in an encouraging manner. When the first element of surprise had settled I remember starting to worry if I needed to understand the information to complete my visit. I was feeling a bit intrigued. The voice eventually stopped talking and instead the sound of a tropical environment with a pouring waterfall faded in. At least that was what I heard, I later learned that it is just supposed to mask the sound of a regular urination. At this point I had been traveling for more than 22 hours so I was pretty tired. I could finally put down the heavy load (my bags) and put aside my stress. The toilet paper was also much softer than in any other place I have been before. I was at peace. I didn’t try to explore more of the toilet superpowers at this time so after struggling a while to find the flush button I concluded this relaxing break.
The next time I went to the bathroom with objective number two was in my student accommodation. This toilet did not look as high tech as the one at the airport but that was an underestimation. Just like last time a fan started spinning when I sat down. I was keen to try more of the functions this time. There actually was english instructions on the wall and also on the dashboard so I started experimenting without hesitation. I could choose myself if I wanted the same waterfall sound turned on or off as well as adjusting the volume. You could turn off the “power deodorizer” which was making the fan noise. There was three indication lights of functions being active, the deodorizer, “energy saver” and “heated water”. The last leads me to the most controversial function. I pressed the button with a symbol of a man getting sprayed in his anus. There was for about four seconds a mechanical noise of a robotic arm unfolding before the anticipated event occurred. This first time I was chocked, the water jet was really intense and pressing the same button to turn it off did not work. I figured there was probably a timer before it stopped so I endured. But the water never ceased streaming so eventually I started to look for other options. I pressed the button next to it and that did the trick. Later I realized that you could also adjust the water pressure to a preferred level. At this point I finished my second session rather amused by my own ignorance.
There is also an option for women which I for self-explanatory reasons have not tried, but I guess the water jet comes a bit more from the front. So this toilet has basically a built in bidet and now when I have learned the controls I think it is quite nice. It can actually prove useful, which I think most people who neglect will take back when they have tried for themselves. I have also come across those toilets which have a built in sink on top of them. When flushing, the same water supply used to flush is utilized in the sink for washing your hands. A way to save water. I have heard however that this is not the end of the japanese toilet innovation. They also have those that clean themselves and sterilize the seat, automatically opens the lid or does practically whatever you tell it from a wireless control panel.
It is a mystery how far behind western countries are when it comes to toilets, haha. Even though we laugh at these comical functions they actually are pretty cool. I can only speculate in reasons of this and I think it may be that your satisfaction or dissatisfaction of going to the bathroom is simply not something you talk about. That may be the case in Japan as well, but at least they made the user research. Anyhow, I am not ashamed to say that I have come to appreciate these moments more than before and the word restroom has come to a more fitting definition here in Japan.
** UPDATE october 5th**
I encountered the following today at the school cafeteria. I guess there’s a simple explanation to why most Japanese people are good squatters.