Convenient Conveniences

The Japanese are expert at taking pre-existing things and refining them until all inconveniences are eliminated.

The toilets at any modern Japanese shopping centre are a prime example of this. Imagine you’ve arrived on a rainy day, umbrella clutched under your arm. At the entrance to the mall you’ll find a machine that bags your umbrella, preventing it from dripping all over the floor as you walk about. Enter the male toilets and next to each urinal you’ll find a hook upon which to hang your now bagged umbrella, and a shelf above for your bag or briefcase. There’s nothing inherently clever about the existence of these two things, but the fact that someone thought to put them in those locations is very clever indeed. The urinal itself flushes automatically when you arrive, as if say, “I’m clean. I’m cool.” Do your business and step back and the urinal flushes automatically.

urinal

Does your business involve something more, ahem, substantial? Enter a cubicle and sit on electronic bliss. The lid raises at the touch of a button on the wall-mounted control panel. The toilet seat has been pre-warmed for your pooing pleasure. (By contrast, if you sit on a toilet seat in Australia to find that it is warm, it is never a good thing.) Use the built-in bidet to get that freakishly fresh feeling. Adjust the temperature, location and pressure of the water jet at will. Make a few mistakes with all those buttons and you’ll soon learn not to do so again. Use the in-toilet dryer to desiccate your derrière. Don’t worry if you forget to flush or close the lid. The toilet will do these menial tasks automatically on your behalf. That way you can pretend to care even though you don’t.

Rest assured that if you are pregnant, the toilet will know about this before you do, and kindly inform you of the fact. What better way to find out than being told by a toilet? I am reliably informed that ladies embarrassed about the sound of their natural bodily functions also get a special button on their toilets that plays a beautiful masking sound, such as the tweeting of birds. In Australian toilets the only tweeting you’ll get is on a smartphone Twitter client. Uncouth.

Do you have a toddler that needs to go? Use the provided child seat. Do you have a toddler that you need to restrain while you go? Use the “jail seat” provided inside the cubicle, where you can secure the toddler while you take care of business. Enjoy the convenience. Don’t think about “human rights”.

At the sink soap is dispensed at the touch of a button and instant warm water, heated to just the right temperature for the season, begins to flow as soon as you put your hands near the spout. An “air towel” blows excess water off your hands much faster than it would evaporate using a traditional hand dryer. It also takes off a layer of skin.

I enjoy the fact that conveniences in Japan actually live up to their name.

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