From magic toilets to wet finger napkins/”wet tissue”
Hot spring foot bath in Shuzenji, Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture!
Japan is considered by many a traveler, tourist and businessperson as one of the most beautiful countries in the world. But the Land of the Rising Sun has another in her pocket other than the beauty of her landscapes, her universally recognized gastronomy or her financial opportunities: a daily life safety unbeknownst in our lands, a comfort bordering on obsession, but above all an hygiene above any norms.
Baths in hot spring hotel in Shuzenji, Izu Peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture
Japan has been blessed since immemorial times with an abundance of natural water rushing down her mountains all year round and with a generally abrupt geographical profile allowing for a natural and fast evacuation of debris, and soiled waters. This active volcano-dotted archipelago is replete with hot springs which have been exploited for more than 1,500 years and contributed to the establishment of daily baths as never witnessed in any other countries.
The Japanese do not wash themselves inside bathtubs. They clean their body first before immersing themselves in clean and ideally warm water. This attention to the cleanliness of their bodies before plunging it in a veritable liquid massage is the more remarkable when you consider the icy cold winter and tropical summers prevalent in most Japan.
In fact the love of the Japanese for their hot springs (“onsen”) lies not only in the need to warm up their bodies in summer but also to treat their skins and even clean their internal organs in summer.
Junior high school students scrubbing their own toilets!
When it comes to natural needs the inhabitants of this crowded archipelago far away from the rest of Asia have always understood the vital importance of a strict daily hygiene be it that of individuals or groups. Already by the end of the 19th Century, when Japan “reopened her doors” to the rest of the World, Occidental visitors were surprised, if not shocked, by this attention brought to the care of the body that they often mistakenly interpreted as a lack of decency, the more for it that the same Japanese showed a great sexual freedom and a marked veneration for all kinds of fertility symbols in their daily life and festivals (“matsuri”). After all the famous/notorious Japanese erotic woodblock prints (“shunga”) had been possible only with ethics vastly different from those considered as normal in Europe and and North America. Homosexuality and bisexuality were condemned as they were in the “Westernized World”. Accordingly the Japanese are not bashful at all when it comes to frankly talk about natural needs even when Westerners attempted to impose their customs and interdicts in this country which never accepted colonization in spite of its preparedness to other standards than their own.
Japanese magic toilets/a recent revolution
Undoubtedly those famous Japanese toilets are very much talked about although few outside Japan know how they have become part and parcel of daily life in this country.
Until 30 years ago they existed only in two distinct forms.”Japanese toilets”, that is the oldest model that consists of simple toilets above which you have to crouch (somewhat like inverted Turkish toilets). They still can be found in many public toilets. After WWII flush toilets and urinals started to appear. But it was in 2004 that Japanese toilets became magical thanks to the added quasi computers hidden inside their structure enabling the control of a bidet system that architects and builders adopted to the point of equipping half of the Japanese abodes within a single year. In Japan bidets are commonly called “washlets”, a commercial name owned by the TOTO Company, a company based in Kitakyushu (Kyushu Island).
Apart of a far better hygiene and easier maintenance and cleaning the main reason for the popularity of this type of toilets is that many Japanese suffered from piles/hemorrhoids due to the physical effort required to stay in a crouching position above the traditional toilets. Actually Japan holds the world record number of clinics solely specializing in proctology and colorectal surgery, a extremely lucrative medical field in spite of the recent change in toilets.
Although most public toilets, school toilets and those found in temples and stations are traditionally equipped, the Japanese prefer to sit down on a toilet at home, especially old citizens for whom the crouching position can become particularly difficult and uncomfortable.
But it is when you disembark at a Japanese airport that you will discover incredible state of of the art facilities due to the fierce competition between the two biggest companies in the field, namely TOTO (50% share of the production) and INAX (25%), which make most of their profits with hotels all over the World, especially in the Middle East. The long rolling carpets carrying you from planes to different arrival gates are regularly interrupted to allow tired travelers to relieve themselves after a long voyage not only inside vast and spotless facilities but also equipped with the very latest amenities. Although divided according to gender, the only difference is that the toilets for gents are also equipped with state of the art urinals (no button to press, which avoids any dicey contacts!). The toilets on which you sit are fit with two types of washlets whose temperature you can regulate, one to wash your backside, the other for ladies’ intimate parts Even if you do not understand Japanese the small illustrations will leave you in no doubt! And they are even equipped with hot air drying systems for people who do not want to use paper at all!
Of course all modern hotels are equipped thus, but another difference with Western countries is that yu will find toilets almost anywhere in Japan, either public inside railway stations, parks, beaches, sport centers and areas and leisure spots and supermarkets where they will always be state of the art but which are immensely cleaner, but they will sport the latest models inside department stores, museums, theaters, movies, concert halls as well as inside town halls, police stations and other public buildings! An embarrassment of choices! And furthermore they are spotless clean at any hour of the day and night!
The Japanese went as far as devising mobile telephone app called”Check a Toilet”. this app will enable you to find the nearest public toilets, wherever you are!
A word for our ladies: “otohime”
Many Japanese ladies feel embarrassed by the notion of someone being able to hear the noise raised by their visits to the toilets to the point of developing a kind of allergy called “timid bladder”! To hide all the noises many women will let water run all the way through thus causing an incredible waste of water. As education campaigns could not help eradicate such a practice a system was devised during the 1980’s.Once activated it reproduces the sound of water being flushed without having to have to let the water. One of of the brands proposing such a device is Otohime (音姫), which literally means “The Princess of Sound”, thus named after the Japanese Goddess Otohime, daughter of the God Ryujin (although the Chinese characters for Otohime are different (乙姫) and mean “the Second Princess”. This device is installed in most new toilets for ladies, while many old public ladies toilets are also equipped with it. The Otohime can either be an independent device fixed on the inside wall of the toilets or as a component of of the washlet. One can activate the device by pressing a button or with a hand passing in front of a sensor. Once activated the device will emit a similar sound to that of a real water flush. Thus more than 20 liters of water can be saved every day with such an apparatus. Nonetheless many a lady still thinks that the sound of the Otohime is artificial and prefer a constant water flushing than using the recorded tape. As it seems that such a device is not required or requested in gents toilets it will very seldom be found in public amenities
Apart of the toilets you will also discover that the hygiene standards in Japanese hotels is almost unheard of in Western establishments. In any case you will not find a star ranking system or else which allows tight-fisted hotel owners back home to do without advantages considered as the norm in any Japanese hotel. Any decent standard hotel provides shampoos, eau de toilette, razors, combs, brushes and others changed every day with your sheets, and this in hotels costing less than 50 euros a night!
Of course the same applies to restaurants and cafés in the whole country.
Actually it has turned into a cutthroat competition as to which establishment will offer the best amenities. Even away from Tokyo, I know many a restaurant which besides state of the art bilingual washrooms will offer you mouthwash, disposable toothpicks and ear cotton swabs without mentioning a whole palette of paper napkins!
Talking of paper it simply becomes outlandish: single layer, double layer, triple layer, soft, exra soft, white, colored, with motifs all kinds, I just can’t mention them all! Stores generally have a single department dedicated to their sole display!
Incidentally many hotels complain that their toilet paper completely disappears after the visit by tourists from other Asian countries!
Finger napkins/”wet tissue”.
Finger napkins/wet tissue and others for men only!
Finger napkins/”wet tissue” are simply delirious!
In fact “finger napkins/wet tissue” doesn’t mean when one is confronted with miniature napkins or tissue to make whatever part of your wet, be it for ladies or gents (or children, or senior citizens!)!
Wet napkins, anti-germ or perfumed, not only for hands and fingers (and nails) but also various parts of body, napkins of different size, napkins for sportsmen or professionals, talcum napkins, anti germ napkins for toilet seats, tables, chairs and others, and others, and others…
In fact many people who buy them just to build up a collection to show to their friends as many of them are conceived for a publicity and commemorative purpose!
RECOMMENDED RELATED WEBSITES
So Good Sushi Restaurant in Nice France
Navigating Nagoya by Paige, Shop with Intent by Debbie, BULA KANA in Fiji, Kraemer’s Culinary blog by Frank Kraemer in New York,Tokyo Food File by Robbie Swinnerton, Green Tea Club by Satoshi Nihonyanagi in Shizuoka!, Mind Some by Tina in Taiwan, Le Manger by Camille Oger (French), The Indian Tourist, Masala Herb by Helene Dsouza in Goa, India, Mummy I Can Cook! by Shu Han in London, Pie
rre.Cuisine, Francescannotwrite, My White Kitchen, Foodhoe, Chucks Eats, Things that Fizz & Stuff, Five Euro Food by Charles,Red Shallot Kitchen by Priscilla,With a Glass, Nami | Just One Cookbook, Peach Farm Studio, Clumsyfingers by Xethia, PepperBento, Hapabento, Kitchen Cow, Lunch In A Box, Susan at Arkonlite, Vegan Lunch Box; Tokyo Tom Baker, Daily Food Porn/Osaka, Only Nature Food Porn, Happy Little Bento, J-Mama’s Kitchen, Cook, Eat, Play, Repeat, Bento Lunch Blog (German), Adventures In Bento, Anna The Red’s Bento Factory, Ohayo Bento,
Must-see tasting websites:
-Sake: Ichi For The Michi by Rebekah Wilson-Lye in Tokyo, Tokyo Through The Drinking Glass, Tokyo Foodcast, Urban Sake, Sake World
-Wine: Palate To Pen, Warren Bobrow, Cellar Tours, Ancient Fire Wines Blog
-Beer: Another Pint, Please!, Beering In Good Mind: All about Craft Beer in Kansai by Nevitt Reagan!
ABRACADABREW, Magical Craftbeer from Japan
-Whisky: Nonjatta: All about whisky in Japan by Stefan Van Eycken
-Japanese Pottery to enjoy your favourite drinks: Yellin Yakimono Gallery
Non gastronomy must-see sites by Shizuoka Residents
HIGHOCTANE/HAIOKU by Nick Itoh in Shizuoka City