Monday, February 05, 2007

Grease in a foreign land

Most of the Japanese people that I met when I was in Japan, naturally, were very shy people. They were shy about everything that they did. They didn’t like to have their pictures taken, with the exception of the very young, and they shrinked away from most personal contact with the gaijinsan. One of the things that they were really shy about was their bodily functions.
I do have to agree with them there. Nothing is less pleasant than listening to someone in the stall next to you taking a huge shit and not doing the slightest thing to mask it’s brutal truth. The Japanese have discovered a brilliant way to deal with this, being that they are very sensibly (obsessively) clean about everything around then, and even under them.
My eyes opened to this all the second I arrived at Narita International Airport, east of Tokyo. I hate being on airplanes, but seeing as how it’s the best way to get to Japan from the mainland USA, I have to shut my mouth about the whole subject. Ok, so whenever I arrive to my destination, I am a wreck. Not eating on the plane, I hate the food as well; my condition is usually bad after eight to ten hours. When I arrive, I have to eat and I also have to take a giant shit because I can be poop shy at the worst times. I don’t want people to hear me alleviating myself of organic waste the same way that I don’t want to experience their movements. This makes it hard to shit in airplane toilets because airplanes are terribly quiet and my mind can’t tell my body to relax and just shit and maybe you can get the picture. Maybe there is someone standing on the outside of the door listening to me do my thing. Fuck. It’s a hang up, like everything else.
So when I get to the airport, and I have to deal with the bathroom and the food first thing. Airport bathrooms are very loud and I have had great success in shitting in those. People are in hurry and they make a lot of noise. This noise helps the people who are conscience of shitting in public. Chain of events, chain of events, you get it. Going in an airport bathroom is just more fluid, if you can grasp that concept.
Well, the smart fuckers in Japan have turned their shy sensibility into a power move for the rest of the challenged world. Being rude to let go of smells and gases in public, the Japanese have equipped their bathrooms with all kinds of goodies to help.
First, there are the set ups. The Japanese toilets are built low to the ground. They are oval shaped and rest flush (ha ha) with the tiles. You just pull down your pants and squat. There is no touching of the dirty public toilet seat. I do know that it is almost impossible to contract any type of virus from a toilet seat unless you have open sores on your ass or the backs of your legs, but not having to even make contact with another surface is an added bonus to the day. Plus, sitting on a cold seat freezes up the colon and makes it hard to shit, another thing that the genius Japanese have fixed.
Japan also has “western style” toilets, which are easy to find and have a sign on the door that says, “western style toilet.” These toilets are even more genius. Not wanting to experiment with the Japanese toilets, I decided to go the American route and just go with what I knew. I have shit everywhere on the earth, some places better than others, and I know that nothing beats the home field advantage. So I walk into the small bathroom in the airport, very small as not to pack the place with people, and select my stall. I notice the cleanliness of the bathroom. Once you leave the country that you live in and visit another, you recognize, first, the aspects of the country that you are in, secondly, how different the place is from the place you live, and third, just how fucked up the place you reside is and how bad you would like to leave.
Japan is a very clean place, and their public restrooms are a stunning example. The shitters are just FUCKING clean. No toilet paper anywhere, no little shit stains on the floor. Not even shoe scuffmarks on the walls. The places all have that showroom quality to them, and they get cleaned every half an hour. Going into a Japanese public restroom is like going into a rich persons crapper. Do you think rich people crap in dirty bathrooms?
Japanese people have a policy of never touching anything that doesn’t live outside of their houses. They take their shoes off before they go into the house. That prevents the whatever it is that lives outside of the house from coming to live inside of the clean house. They also don’t touch their food. Only the cook gets to do that. You eat with chopsticks and you don’t get to pick your food up like a dirty Mexican (if you are one). Your hands don’t get dirty and you don’t take the food away from the restaurant. You enjoy it there and then you leave.
The bathrooms operate on the same principle. You never touch anything in them. The sinks have motion sensors in them. To turn them on, you thrust your filthy hands under them and the hot water cleans them off. There are no bathrooms with the old sinks. It seems like the second the sensor sinks hit the market, every Japanese business flipped and had to get one to help win the war on touching anything with dirty hands. There aren’t any paper towel dispensers, either. A few places had the hot air machines for drying the hands, but most didn’t have anything. Even the hot air machines were sensor driven. No buttons on them at all. You were out of luck if you used a place without anything, which was almost all of them. I just wiped my hands on my filthy pants right in front of the Japanese, much to their chagrin, and it caused a few of them to faint onto the clean bathroom floors.
Although the sinks were impressive, the pinnacle of clean in the bathrooms was the toilets. The Japanese toilets you didn’t even touch with you horrible dirty body, and the western toilets are just so advanced, they will make you shit. I discovered these beauties in stages as I entered the stall. First, there are the walls. Every time I go into a bathroom in the States, I kneel down to check if there are shoes that I can see in the stalls. You know, with pants around the ankles. Have you ever been in a toilet and some dumb asshole knocks on the door when you are trying to do your thing in private? “Is anyone in there?” And the reply is always, “Yeah, occupied, that’s why the door is shut and locked, you nitz.”
In Japan, all of the stall walls go all the way down to the floor and all the way up to the ceiling. Amazing ingenuity by the Japanese. There is privacy all around. Once you are in your stall, there is nothing to bother you. The standard sliding lock feature is the same around the world, although I have seen rope and nail variations in the south of France, but they were all barbarians, for all I could surmise.
The thing that set apart the Japanese system of shitting was probably the length they went to hide the fact that fecal matter was sliding out of their assholes. There was a speaker installed in the particular toilets that I was using while I was pondering this entry. Then there was the features to the toilet itself, a marvelous piece of porcelain machinery that may never be realized by western man.
The speakers were one thing that got me thinking about the polite act of shitting. I was taken aback by the mechanization. When you close the door, a woman’s voice starts to speak. It was all in Japanese, but I am positive she was saying something pleasant like, “please pull your pants down and get ready to take a trip to the moon. This will be a most happy experience for you.” Then after she runs on for 30 or so seconds, the sound of falling water fills the john. Genius. She even proceeds to talk for another few minutes in the back of the waterfall mask.
Are you one of those people who goes to the bathroom in a friends house and runs the sink as to hide the terrible sound of grease and refuse leaving your colon? I have lived with someone for months and I cannot bring myself to shit in complete silence. Why? That is a bigger psychological issue that will not be raised here, but nevertheless, it is something real. The Japanese have conquered fear by prematurely installing noise to cover the sound. They have even picked something soothing and familiar to those people who have to run the sink, like running water. The woman’s voice that speaks is soft like a woman that would pick you up in a bar and offer you a ride home in her cloud mobile that was parked right next to heaven. That wasn’t the best part by far.
Maybe I should start by telling you, faithful reader, that I was sitting down to take my shit in Sapporo, a city located in Hokkaido, and island in the Japan chain. It was December, and they get some snow. The train that I had arrived on drove all night through a blizzard and the world was a cold place to be at that moment. I had to shit and there was nothing better than going into a john that was a little like home when I wanted it to be, and I really have to thank the Japanese inventors for doing this for me. I was really happy.
So the restroom was very cold on the inside. The door into the john almost connected with the big, sliding glass doors that opened up into a courtyard filled with snow. The air was biting cold and the drafts that were blowing up the back of my shirt would stop war campaigns. It was cold. The whole time I was having trouble with the cold I was having trouble with pulling my pants down to shit, but the Japanese pulled the ace out.
As soon as I got used to the woman talking and the privacy and the running water and the like, I dropped my pants and sat on the warmest seat that my ass had ever felt. Not warm like someone had just used the facilities four seconds before I have and it was the tropics so none of the heat from the person before could leave. Warm like going to your mom’s house on the East Coast and having those old electric wall heaters radiated just right and were located at shin level, because the smarties that invented them had on their thinking caps that day. The toilets must have linked to a power source somewhere. The seat was warm and there was snow outside, so what on earth could have been better than that moment?