I love Japan. I find the culture, architecture, cuisine—especially the seafood—immensely appealing. The people are right up my alley: the average Japanese loves all manner of electronic gizmos of questionable utility, just like I do; baseball is outrageously popular here, just like back home.
But what is this thing the Japanese have with their toilets?
A visit to any restroom here presents the naive visitor with a porcelain R2-D2 in place of the usual intuitive plumbing. As I approach, a proximity sensor brings R2 to life, the heated seat, softly illuminated from below, lifting in greeting. Somewhere deep in the bowels of the appliance a pump switches to standby, filling the room with a low hum followed a moment later by anticipatory gurgles.
R2 has a control panel that would do Mission Control proud, but the kanji callouts provide little relief for this clueless westerner. I know that Failure is Not an Option but cannot shake the feeling that this iGo is soon to become my iCan’t. What if I accidentally press the button for High Pressure Rinse?
Toto, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore.
I suppose I should be grateful to find a culturally distinct practice amidst 21st century global homogeneity. Nowadays it seems the same goods are found in the same stores for the same prices pretty much the world over. But I think I’d be more enthusiastic about the digital toilet if I could figure out how to flush it without a user manual.