Japanese toilet crashes. Landing gear jams.

Our latest column from William Thomas

Okay, so that headline may be somewhat far-fetched, but I can tell you firsthand that sitting on a toilet in Japan studying a cockpit-like panel of buttons and flip switches can cause you to believe that with one wrong move you could actually be airborne over Tokyo’s Narita International.

Compared to Japan, Canada is still stuck in the dark age of commodes. Sit, poop and flush is pretty much the standard procedure for a Canadian’s life in the loo. And by the way, the average senior citizen has spent three full months of that life sitting on the can. Some light reading, but not many great memories for all that time invested.

When was the last time you went to a restroom and were welcomed by a toilet that opened its lid to you upon entering the stall? Heat and cushioned seats are de riguere in Japan and I sincerely hope that means regular … not rough. How about a pulsating massage jet, a deodorizer and a clock to remind you that at some point you must leave paradise and return to the real world?

Then there’s the control panel of a Japanese toilet which can be attached to the side of the unit or to the wall on your right. Marrying the technology of a toilet and a bidet, there are several spray options available to the sitter. (Wow … that was close!)

Remember when you were a kid and you fell ass-first on the lawn sprinkler and your dad looked at you funny because you were enjoying it? Yeah, it’s like that. After the wash up, there’s a dry down by as a warm blast of air hits you from below. (I wonder how many Westerners mistake this feature for a hair dryer and contort themselves into a wet pretzel!?) With the wash, the dry and no paper necessary, I’d be marketing this trailblazer as the “Look Ma No Hands Potty Of Perfection.”

The lid of the Japanese toilet also comes down automatically as you leave the bathroom. You can only guess at how many domestic arguments that could have been avoided here in Canada. If that hydraulic toilet lid came with some sort of fool-proof aiming device for men, our divorce rates could drop by as much as 50%.

The Japanese high-tech toilet also sports a button to adjust the water pressure of the spray function which ranges from a gentle spritzing to a three-alarm fire hose dousing. And that right there was my downfall. It was many years ago and I happened to be using the washroom of a bank executive in Kanazawa, Japan when I accidentally pushed two buttons at once. What followed was a loud flush, a quick fill and then a flood. Apparently I hit “W” for warm and “T” for I have no idea … Tsunami? I was up and out of there like a government worker at 4:01 pm.

So there I was in a foreign country where people bow and say “Hike! Hike!” a lot, motoring down the hallway of a bank, trying to outrun water. And I hoped that when this little disaster was discovered, the first responders noted the clarity of the liquid and knew it to be water and not something else because I was in fact travelling with a Canadian basketball team at the time and yes, there had been a fair bit of beer drinking going on.

I left that loo so fast I didn’t get a chance to push the “flushing sound” button which – I’m not making this up – muffles the crude noise of a toilet flush with the recorded gurgling of a mountain stream. So yeah, the Japanese toilet is not a ‘can’ but more of a regal and digital throne. Believe it or not, there’s actually a state-of-the-art Japanese toilet on the market that sells for $50,000. With that one you get music. (I’m tempted to say it’s “cutting edge” technology, but the delicacy of the user’s position makes that sound kinda’ dangerous.)

You know how in Canada we have those automated urinals where you take a step back and it flushes automatically? In Japan when you’re finished peeing at the urinal, a Japanese guy in a suit and white gloves steps out of a stall and flushes it for you! And if for whatever reason, you can’t go, he’ll also take a tinkle for you so you don’t feel so bad. Also when a Canadian gets drunk and vomits in the toilet they call it “driving the porcelain bus?” In Japan they have a uniformed chauffeur drive that bus and pass you a wet nap when it’s over! Okay, so that stuff I made up, but the rest of that restroom stuff is absolutely true.

Looking down after all these years, somewhere up there in that great latrine in the sky the inventor of the toilet, Thomas Crapper just made a noise that sounds a lot like the bark of a seal.

For comments, ideas and copies of The Legend of Zippy Chippy, go to www.williamthomas.ca.



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