Toilets in Japan can be a fancy thing with its talent often not just its flush. (Or they are just a hole in the floor, but this blog entry is about the fancier versions). The one in our room is heated. So much so that I often yell ‘ouch’ for effect when I sit upon it. Yesterday I proclaimed that you could melt butter on it and I am pretty sure that’s true. But after pushing a variety of buttons on the control panel I turned the heater off. There are a variety of other buttons on the control panel that I won’t go in to, none of which are the flush mechanism. That’s just a regular handled thing but, and as Susan announced last night, it has the most unenthusiastic flush ability. It gets the job done effectively but isn’t anything to write home about as it’s just very quiet and calm about the whole business. For such a fancy toilet one has higher expectations for the thing all the way around and the lack of flushing fanfare leaves a person unsatisfied.
The WC at the airport needed instructions in order to know how to use it. Even just opening and closing the door was a major challenge let alone once inside deciding on which porcelain reseptacle to use of the four that were available. There were directions on the automatic door opener/closer, which was a big deal because the overhead lighting for the roughly 8′ x 8′ stall (the size of my sister’s bedroom growing up!) was dependent upon closing that door properly. So getting that first part down was important. After trying for about 5 minutes to figure the thing out, I laughed out loud at myself and ended up waiting for a kind Japanese person to come along to help me. A woman I recognized from my flight came with her little girl to use the loo and even she, although native Japanese, had trouble figuring the whole thing out. We finally figured it out together and watching her get control of the whole operation gave me the confidence to try opening the door and walking in on my own. Seriously, I travel alone half way around the world and yet I don’t have the confidence to use the loo on my own. But I was within eyeshot of a full waiting area and being the only Westerner in the place, felt like I was being watched like an eagle (and I don’t think I am wrong about that assumption!)
Once in the bath room I had to read the many signs in “English” and Japanese in order to understand which step came next in the whole process. After making a calculated decision on which reseptacle to use (correctly, I’d like to point out), I was faced with the dilemma of flushing the thing. Right now you might be thinking that I am exaggerating. I wish I was! It took me no fewer than 5 full minutes (on the low-end of my estimate) to figure out where the flusher was! Having been yelled at once in Vietnam for incorrectly flushing a toilet (yes, there is an incorrect way, apparently) I was determined NOT to leave without completing my task. Plus, it was my first big challenge in Japan and I was not going to begin this trip as a failure. Desperate after flushing several of the other reseptacles (yet still not my own) and after reading the signs on the two walls nearest me and my reseptacle, I decided to venture over to the other side of the room to read the many signs over there. I looked closer at a small sign that was highlighted by very large blue arrows all over the wall pointing to it. FLUSH HERE, it said. Call me crazy but I expected the flusher to be next to or near my toilet. I pushed the button and cringed waiting to see which thing it operated in the room. Success! I used the automatic dispenser for the soap. Then the faucet automatically sensed my hands and turned the water on. I then pushed the button to automatically open the door and walked out of the room with wet hands because there was no hand dryer nor were there paper towels! True story.