R.U. Smarter Than Your Toilet?By DAVE KIFFER
July 13, 2015
Yep, yep, yep.
Ya got your iPhone 1000s and your Super Mega Galaxies and your Hyper-Dyper Whatevers.
Tell you what, I got your “unlimited data plan” right here!!
While we have been figuring out ways to ease our daily burden (“Siri, tell we how much milk I have in my fridge and what day does it expire?”) the Japanese have been working really hard to make our lives truly easier.
Ladies and Gentleman, may I present……… the Smart Toilet!
You may have heard that Japanese toilets are a bit different from ours. They, uh, how do I say this delicately, uh, wash, your privates, for you.
Pish-posh, say the French, we have been “bideting” for centuries! Yes, but it really isn’t quite the same.
The French, as they do with everything except food, just sort of nose vaguely around the issue, a little spray in the air, maybe hit the mark, maybe not. Comme si, comme sa.
And to use a bidet effectively, you apparently have to be a contortionist of the highest order.
By the time you have reached the proper position you have forgotten why you came into the bathroom in the first place.
Nosirree, Robair (or Nosirree, Yuichi, as the case may be).
A bidet just ain’t the same as the Smart Toilet.
The Japanese have made art forms out of flower arranging, miniature tree growing and paper folding, so it makes sense they would also seek to make using the toilet as artful as possible.
The result is when Westerners confront Japanese bathrooms, they are faced with a choice: Original Recipe or Extra Crispy.
Original Recipe is a squat toilet, which is just like it sounds. You hover over an opening in the floor and squat.
Really, really low.
And you pray your million dollar smartphone – or your wallet – doesn’t fall out of your pants into the abyss.
That is apparently how the Japanese have been going to the “bathroom” for centuries.
Well, they don’t actually call it the “bathroom” by the way. The bathroom is, logically enough, for baths only. You use the smart toilet in a whole different room.
But I digress.
Anyway, some Japanese are really attached to that squat tradition. Tradition is important. It reminds us where we came from. And why we left.
Using traditional toilets in Japan is right up there with doctors in Europe still bleeding sick people with leeches. J
Every Westerner tries a “traditional” Japanese toilet once.
And never again.
Because our Western joints do not allow us to straighten back up after such a deep, deep knee bend.
So you end up walking around all hunched over and the Japanese snicker.
“Check him out, Toichi! That Gaijin just used a squat toilet!”
And they snicker at us, because, if given a choice, most of them don’t use the traditional toilets either.
Fortunately, some traditional values are changing. Now, you have a choice.
Extra Crispy is the “Western toilet.”
It even says that on the stall doors in public bathrooms.
As if you have to blurt out “howdy partner” before you climb up on a saddle-shaped toilet seat and put your feet in the stirrups before you go. Yee hah!
But it is like no toilet that most Westerners whose name isn’t Vanderbilt or Rockefeller has ever seen.
First of all, it has more dials than a smart phone.
Actually, really first of all, the seat is heated.
When you settle your tush onto the seat, a rush of heat immediately envelopes your nether regions. And it is adjustable.
I learned that the first time I settled onto a “western” toilet.
The person who had used it before me had apparently frostbitten his patootie and warmed up by “adjusting” the seat heater up to 99 degrees, Celsius.
My sizzling buns caused me to jump a couple of feet into the air and exclaim loudly. A couple of stalls away, I heard someone snicker. We visitors only live to amuse the locals!
Anyway, I learned you could adjust the temperature of your commode and that made it a real delight, my posterior seems to prefer a toasty 34 degrees, Celsius of course.
But that is just the beginning of what smart toilets can do “for you.”
Westerners are always perplexed by the array of buttons next to the toilet seat.
You sit down, settle in, and, bam, you are prepping a 747 for takeoff.
What do all those buttons and lights and toggle switches mean???? Do you flush before or after you reach takeoff speed? Questions, questions, questions.
One thing that some toilets do is play music.
Seriously, they play a nice little ditty that is meant to cover up the sound of your natural functions, if you are concerned that those sounds might be disturbing folks in the nearby stalls. I bet that pretty much keeps the Japanese out of all American airport restrooms.
I noticed a similar ditty in two different toilets several hundred miles apart.
I can only imagine some professional composer rushing home to his wife.
“Honey, I got the contract to write the potty music! We’re gonna be rolling in yen!”
I hope the royalties per flush are astronomical.
Some toilets skip the music and just provide an audible hum to accomplish the same thing. The hum sounds like, well, it sounds a bit like the hum a vibrating bed makes. No, the Smart Toilets do not vibrate. At least not yet (see below).
The really high end toilets also have a scent function. I pushed that button in a toilet in a fancy hotel and got a very, very strong whiff of what the Japanese take for potpourri. Either that or it was the smell of the fermented soy bean gruel called “Nato.”
Whatever, my eyes started to tear up because the previous toilet user had clearly cranked the scent function up to the level used for enhanced interrogations at Guantanamo.
Also known as “Cosmetic Aisle at Nordstroms.”
Fortunately, that Smart Toilet was not labeled “Western.” Otherwise the scent would have been “Eau de Kansas City Stockyards.”
Of course, when you are done doing your business, the Smart Toilet really gets to work.
The Japanese really dislike wasting anything. If you go there you will find that recycling is a religion in itself. They have little Buddhas that wear Birkenstocks and drive Volvos.
And the Japanese really, really, really dislike the idea of toilet paper.
So replacing toilet paper is pretty much what the Smart Toilet is all about.
Depending on which button you push, your nether regions will be sprayed, cleansed or blow dried. And yes, you can adjust it.
One time I nearly got blown off the seat because someone previously had cranked the spray up to “fire hose” setting.
Natch, there are different buttons for men and women.
Some smarty pants engineer spent a lot of time measuring and testing to determine just the right angle and spray level for both male and female private parts and how best to cleanse them.
That must have been a verrrrryyy interesting research and development process.
I can see the ads for student volunteers already.
“Wanted: Test subjects. Must be willing to sit on toilet for hours. Must be have buns of steel and genitals of granite.”
And just how many people got blown clean (literally) off the pot before they got the pressure dialed in?
Anyway, it is an awe inspiring wonder for those of us Westerners unaccompanied to such assistance in the bathroom. At least those of us too old or too young to be in diapers.
Now that I think about it there may be a connection between the Japanese living longer than any other peoples and the creation of Smart Toilets.
They really make sense if a third of your population is in the sponge bath demographic.
At any rate, there are all sorts of different buttons to hit different areas. Experimentation is a must because your results will vary.
To be fair, the Smart Toilets don’t necessarily do a perfect job of cleaning. Toilet paper still seems to be needed, just not as much. Then again, maybe Westerner plumbing just doesn’t do as a good a job of processing Japanese cuisine.
But I digress, again.
So is that it for Smart Toilet?
Au contraire (soredokoroka)! The Japanese are always looking ahead.
In fact, just this month there is a big national symposium in Tokyo on just where the next generation of Smart Toilets is/are going. And I’m sure that the same smarty pants engineers who determined the correct spray angles are already at work on what new wonders will be standard equipment of the Smart Toilets of 2020.
An 145-page report will be released in September featuring the winning designs and proposals for new innovation. All in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Naturally, I have some suggestions.
1) A cooler. I would prefer a fully stocked fridge, but I understand that some folks out there still have this weird aversion to mixing “input” and “output” in the same room. But we can all get behind popping a nice “cool one” while whiling away the hours on the Smart Toilet.
Those are only a few of my ideas. I’m sure you have plenty more. See what a great conversation this is?
We can totally revolutionize our bathroom habits with this one simple import.
And I’m happy to have given you so much to go on!
You can thank me later.
Somewhere between Taylor Swift and the Eau de Nordstroms.
Dave Kiffer is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Contact Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Kiffer ©2015
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