Everything is shorter in Japan. Everything from eating surfaces to couches to buffet counters at restaurants (ouch!) and of course the infamous Japanese futon or “bed”. I don’t think the height of the furniture and appliances has anything to do with the average height of a Japanese person. Japanese apartments and houses are considerably smaller than American apartments so in order to fit everything in comfortably Western models had to be scaled back some.
These short err, vertically challenged fixtures can lead to some very funny/embarrassing moments for a gangly foreigner. The biggest difference that I still can’t get used to are the toilets because they’re nothing more then porcelain holes in the ground. Actually, take a men’s urinal, cut the length in half, flip it so it lies horizontally and stick it in the ground. I will try to post a picture of one of these.
This Japanese toilet is called an O-tearai, toire or benjo and talk about a good time because not only are you (now keep in mind that this is a girl’s point of view) supposed to pee into these things but you are supposed to poop in them as well! Okay. The next time you have to poop, drain the water out of your toilet, stand over it and squat. Turn the water back on and flush. That’s about right. Now imagine having to squat all the way, or most of the way down to the ground without holding onto anything! I’ve never tried #2 but I have peed in them a couple times but I can never get it right. First of all I don’t trust my aiming ability, that is aiming away from my pants because you are supposed to squat with your pants down to your ankles. It’s bad enough that this contraption doesn’t have an effective splash guard but since I don’t come with one either I just take my pants off and hold them while I pee…BACKWARDS into the damn thing because if I were to stand correctly it would probably be even worse! It’s not like a hole either. The part you go in is only a couple inches deep. Some are raised an inch or two off the ground and if they are, you are supposed to stand on the sides and balance.
My two toddlers won’t even go near the thing, which makes long outings difficult because most zoos and parks around here only have that type of toilet. Thankfully most modern restaurants and office buildings give you a choice. Man, what if you had a stomach virus?? Oh and remember the vending machines? Some vending machines in big cities sell nothing but toilet paper because not all public restrooms have toilet tissue readily available.
My co-worker “N-san” had a great story about western toilets. When she was five her mom took her to Hawaii to meet her Aunt. When she arrived at the house she said in Japanese, ” Mommy I have to use the potty!” and her Aunt showed her to the bathroom. Five minutes later her mom went to check in on her and she found 5 year old N-chan (chan is used for children) squatting on top of the toilet bowl crying and trying to balance herself! Her mom lifted her down and showed N-chan how to use it. Cute huh?
On the other hand, because the Japanese are technologically superior, Western-styled toilets can be no less than amazing! They look like regular toilets but cost around $4,000 and includes buttons either on the toilet itself, the wall or a on a remote control that work the bidet, air drier and the toilet seat. It’s quite fancy. The one I used had other buttons but I was afraid to see what they would do. You never know. Some of the newer styles can perform a urinalysis if you want. It basically checks for protein levels and bacteria then sends the results electronically to your doctor. The funniest button is the one that makes a fake flushing noise so others outside don’t have to hear your “going’s on”. Oh Did I fail to mention the seat warmer for those chilly mornings? Now if only they could be trained so say, “Why god morning Lynne! You look beautiful this morning. I think your butt is getting smaller! Have you lost weight??”