Thursday, January 6, 2011

On Design-- The Magic Toilets of Japan

When O-Jiisan and O-Baasan (grandpa and grandma) had a new house built a year and a half ago, naturally it was outfitted with the latest in Japanese toilet technology.  Heated toilet seats have been around for a while (I seem to recall Madonna mentioning how taken she was by the heated toilet seats the last time she was on tour here), but lately the lid goes up automatically as you enter the WC.  The heated seat thing is basically a good thing, I think--and it certainly makes sense in a country where homes are not centrally heated.  Allow me to assure you that toilet seats in an unheated part of the house in January are... cold.  That's in italics because it looks more shivery than bold. 

Here's the Magic Toilet (which, I noticed on YouTube, apparently everybody who comes to Japan videos and sticks on YouTube, and I have now unknowingly joined the stampede):

The lights in the WC at my in-laws are also on motion-sensor, so at night they come on automatically when you walk in and go out after you do.  This seems like good design--surely it must save electricity if the toilet light is never accidentally left on.  Right?  Well, probably.  But the first time we went down to Kawana to visit them in the new house, Teddy (of course) went to the toilet at bedtime.  Teddy, being Teddy, was in and out of the Magic Toilet all day, watching that lid go up, and so he just had to make one last visit to ToiletLand before bed.  Except it was dark, and the motion-sensor light system was on. 

Five minutes later, the most frightening, bloodcurdling screams imaginable from the WC.  We all raced to the door--which he had locked.  "Teddy!  Teddy!   Are you alright?!" I shouted helplessly at the door, picturing aliens bursting from my son's stomach.

"Ku-ra-iiiii...." came the crying, trembling reply.  Dark.  He had sat so still on the toilet, that the motion sensors assumed no one was in the room, and out went the lights.  And Teddy was too scared to move, so they didn't come back on when he started screaming.  The sound shock waves weren't enough to turn the lights back on, apparently. 

"Move, Teddy!  Wave your hands around!  The lights will come back on if you move around!"  Since, of course, he couldn't unlock the door in the dark and he was sitting frozen to the toilet seat in fear, this was all we could do to help him help himself get the lights on.

And you'll be relieved to know, I'm sure, that Teddy is now a healthy second-grader, and seems not to have been permanently traumatized by the event.

Moral:  The people who designed the motion-sensor lights forgot about the people with constipation.

Mata asobou, ne!


  1. LOL i was in a target bathroom once and the lights went off. I was a bit surprised.
    Personally, though, in the middle of the night, i typically don't want the lights on in the bathroom

  2. Wow that's so cool! I hear that Japanese toilets talk now, and have music so that no when hears you while you're doing your thing. Didn't know about the heater thing though. Oh, and I just realized that I spelt Akemashite wrong. Gomen Nasai!


  3. Oh wow! That toilet is both cool and freaky at the same time.

    I found you through Sarah (Falen) and just love the picture you have as your header!

  4. Summer-- I think that's an extra roll of toilet paper in a green holder that hangs down below the actual holder :-))

    Falen-- True, I never turn the lights on in the middle of the night either. So that's another strike against what *seems* like good design.... although, to be fair, since there are windows in the WCs, the lights never come on during the day, and start turning on right around dusk. But you have to remember to move occasionally if you're reading a newspaper or something. I was going to say magazine, but.... well, let's just leave that thought there. ;-))

    Ez--Public toilets *do* have "oto-hime" so nobody hears you doing your thing! Forgot about that--I should add that as a p.s. to the post. (Spelling-- ii yo! ki ni shinai!)

    Shelley--hello and welcome! Yookoso! Thanks so much--I took the header photo first thing when I got up New Year's Day, half hanging out the window in the self-same WC that Teddy was traumatized in (which is to say, the upstairs WC; the WC in the video is the downstairs WC).

  5. Poor baby!

    I, too, hate having the lights on there after dark.

    Also, I'd like to jump on the "loving your new pic" bandwagon!

  6. Yes--my poor baby Teddy Bear. It was all I could do to keep a straight face when we finally got him out of the toilet...

    Thanks! Glad everybody likes my "Fuji From The Bathroom Window" shot :-))