Every culture has its own way of doing things, from how you enter a home, to how you greet, to how you eat, to how you... for lack of a better word, poo.
You never really think about how you do your business (of pooing that is...), because well, no one ever really wants to. The fact is that as humans, what we do every day as a consequence of eating is something we have to deal every day of our lives. How strange that be that as it may, it’s such a taboo subject nobody wants to talk about.
But I dare! Mu ho ha ha ha!!!
In America (where your blogger is from), you've got one basic option. You sit, do your business, flush, pull your drawers back up, and you can pretend as if nothing ever happened.
That is, unless you live at home, and other people have to endure the aftermath of the atrocities that you give birth to. (People still have to live with your consequences; it's just that in public, you can pretend it wasn't you.)
In Japan, however, you've got a range of options. I mean, sure, you're bound to run into your Western counterpart, but you will also run into variations of it that will blow your mind.
In fact, only recently has the sitting toilet become standard. The squat toilet is still preferred, and you shouldn’t be surprised to walk into a station or shopping center restroom to find this weird miniature version of a porcelain bathtub at the bottom of a floor.
Unless you're familiar with how to use one of these babies, most Westerners stand there thinking "how in the HELL am I supposed to use THAT???"
It's really quite easy, but it takes practice and getting used to, as the first times you feel that you might not aim correctly, and think you could (and actually MIGHT, so be careful) soil your clothes. But once you’ve got the technique down, you're set because then you can use most any toilet in Japan.
And I say MOST, because there is a variation of the Western toilet that I'll get into later.
There is a RIGHT way to poo in a Japanese squat toilet.
You have to stand so that your feet straddles the toilet at juuuuust the right spot, undo and bring down your pants, and squat so that you are directly on top of (but not touching, the Japanese LOVE this part) the small little ceramic bathtub that will soon be the recipient of your figurative children.
You also have to make sure you face the right way; the correct way is to stand facing the front of the toilet, which looks disconcertingly like the front bonnet on one of those old baby bassinets, with the flush lever usually directly on it (in some models, the lever is off to the side).
Try to squat as close to the front as possible so that you don’t accidentally miss and hit the back of the toilet instead. When you squat, your clothes should already be out of the way, but if it makes you feel safer, you can hold them up front with your hands.
Once you’re finished doing your business, pull the lever and the water washes all of it away.
The Japanese squat toilet itself comes in a few variations.
Sometimes, the toilet is found lengthwise when you open the door. But sometimes, the toilet is found in a vertical position on a higher level facing the back wall AWAY from the door.
I really hate it when toilets are placed this way, because the front of the toilet faces the inside of the room, and your bottom faces the door directly behind you; a very vulnerable position.
Sometimes, there is not much room, and the back of the toilet has to protrude from the higher step on which it is placed, and should someone manage to open the door, or should you be clumsy enough to forget to lock the door, the first thing they see is your bare bottom, and heaven for bid you should be in the middle of the act.
Most major establishments should have a Western style toilet. However establishments that have only a Japanese style toilet are still prevalent, so unless you are comfortable using a Japanese squat toilet, you’ll have to pray that the facility where you are asking to use the rest room has a Western style toilet. If not, you'll either have to hold it, look somewhere else, or just bear it (so to speak) and learn to use a Japanese toilet.
Now, just because you might find a Western toilet in Japan doesn't mean that you're out of the woods just yet.
Some toilets may just be plain and simple, with a seat and a lever, but others have gotten so advanced you have to be careful; the Japanese are very fond of electrical appliances and they have them EVERYWHERE. The restroom is no exception, so don't be surprised to walk into a room with this high-tech toilet with more buttons on it than an X-box controller.
What do these toilets do? Well, there is a range of things. The most famous being the inclusion of a bidet or "washlet" (a cute little Japanese combination of the word wash, and toilet. As it is a combination of two foreign words, it is by Japanese definition, A FOREIGN WORD, so you'll be expected to know it. LEARN IT.).
Some toilets have a stream option, others have a spray option, and some have a mist option. Some have all three. The most advanced toilets have temperature and spray strength control knobs. Some toilets have an air drying option for when you're done washing your bottom. On advanced models you can control the heat and strength of these as well.
Need some noise to muffle the embarrassing sound of defecation? DON'T WASTE WATER! There is a sound option on some of these toilets that allows you to simulate the sound of a courtesy flush, so that you don't waste water, and you can hide your embarrassment.
In a hurry and need to save time? You know, for those times when you need to just unzip and let 'er rip? Some toilets have motion sensors that flip open the toilet lid as soon as you walk in!
Winters can be cold in Japan, and I've come to appreciate the toilet seat warming option on some of the toilets.
Some people I've talked to actually dislike it because it gives them the uncomfortable feeling that somebody had already been sitting on the toilet. Um, just to be sure, when you come to a toilet, people have already sat on it hundreds, if not thousands of times. I don't see how having to sit on a cold, freezing toilet changes this fact.
You just never know what you'll run into, so the best advice I can give to anyone coming to Japan is to just learn how to use a Japanese toilet so that you are always be prepared.
Pooing and Toilets in Videogames
The only time I can ever remember a video game where pooing is a key feature is Tamagotchi.
Yes, these began as separate little hand-held devices, but eventually Tamagotchi was ported over to the Gameboy. In the Gameboy version, you can actually have your Tamagotchi sit and relax on a toilet if you catch him dancing back and forth indicating it wants to go.
Yes, pooing was a key part of the game, as it tried to recreate sensation of having an actual pet.
In the game, pets were born, you had to care for them as babies, clean up their poo, give them shots, food, have them exercise, the works.
The Japanese and Poo
For most Japanese, poo is not a taboo subject.
People flat out talk about poo at almost any given time.
Poo is a joke in Japan.
Children are taught to think and talk about poo as you talk about food, the weather and the rest of the day.
There are books on poo...
Even poo good luck charms you can buy in Kyoto!
Picture books on animals often include a section on what the poo for each animal looks like.
Poo can be a good luck charm in Japan. Why?
One reason is because of Japanese puns.
When something has good luck, there is often a pun associated with it.
For example, people eat sea bream, or "tai," because it's said to bring good luck. The word "medeTAI" means "congratulations" or "auspicious occasion." Kelp can be good luck too, because the word for it, "kombu," can be part of the word "yoroKOMBU," which means "to be happy."
So why can poo be "good luck?" That's because the Japanese word for poo," which is "unko," or "unchi," begins with the syllable "UN." The word "un" can also mean "luck" or "fortune." (運)
The phrase "un ga tsuku" can have three meanings:
- To have the syllable "un" stuck onto something
- To have "poo" stuck onto something
- To have "good luck" stuck onto something
So in Japan, someone might tell you you have good luck if you stepped on poo. You got "good luck" stuck to the bottom of your shoe!
Do you know of any other games where poo is mentioned, referenced or made a matter of in any way?
Let me know in the comments!