Toronto Star Feb 8, 2017: CALGARY, ALTA.-Coming home from a week in Japan required quite an adjustment.
Sure, I had to get my head around the fact I arrived back in Calgary Friday afternoon, half an hour before I left Japan the day before. But my crash landing had nothing to do with the International Date Line and the inevitable jet lag.
It had everything to do with the toilets.
Once you’ve spent a week using powder rooms in Japan, heading to the can in Canada is like going to a cold, stark gulag.
In Japan, going to the loo is like entering a toilet wonderland. In a Japanese-style inn, I slid open the door to the WC to see a pair of slippers beckoning and a light show beginning in the sparkling white toilet bowl.
Toilets everywhere — from fancy hotels to washrooms in the mall — have heated, cushioned seats. A remote control panel runs just alongside the toilet or on the wall nearby with a series of buttons, each offering its own little delight.
There are a couple of spray options for your nether regions, and tasteful tiny drawings illustrate just what the water might hit. There’s a button to choose the exact water pressure to suit your taste. Feel free to experiment.
From museums to train station washrooms, you’ll find an alarming amount of signage inside the cubicle, most of which you’ll be unable to read. Fortunately, clear bold diagrams explain firmly that you should sit, not squat on the seats — what a waste of comfort a squat would be.
Along with the button to flush, you’ll find a “flushing sound” button that runs a recording of running water to “muffle toilet sound” as one rare English sign explained, helpfully.
It’s all so civilized.
Especially when you realize we spend 1.42 hours a week in the biffy. That’s 92 days, more than three months of your life in the restroom.
Longer I guess, if you’re Japanese. The country has the world’s longest life spans: Women live to be almost 87 and men past 80. Different studies have come up with different reasons for this longevity; the healthy diet, universal health care, social cohesion.
But I wonder whether the joy of taking all those trips to the lav — each its own little adventure — helps keep people young. It’s surely no wonder that half of Japanese men sit at every visit.