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Saturday, Aug. 25, 2001


The way of using a Japanese-style toilet

The Western-style toilet in my house has illustrated instructions on the lid. For boys, it shows a picture of a man standing facing the toilet. For girls, it shows a picture of a girl sitting on the toilet. The man looks more like he is waiting for the bus, and the girl looks more like she's waiting at the doctor's office. Apparently, when Western-style toilets were first introduced, some people didn't know how to use them and squatted on the seat.

I've never seen instructions on how to use a Japanese-style toilet, however. If I could write the instructions, they would be:

Enter the bathroom and put on the bathroom slippers. I know what you're thinking: Bowling shoes, golf shoes and now I need toilet shoes? Yes. You'll understand why in a moment.

The toilet is the porcelain-lined oblong hole in the floor that looks like an elegant bathtub for cockatiels. Climb up onto the step. Just because the toilet is in an elevated position that you step up to does not mean that it is more important than you. You'll prove it in a few moments.

Stand facing the wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Line up your feet on both sides of the toilet, and bend your knees as if you were about to do the limbo. You may notice a wet area around your feet. This means the cockatiels have been splashing around in the tub. Thus the slippers.

You'll need some athletic talent to perform the next part. If you don't do yoga, now would be a good time to start. Or you can do some stomping exercises like sumo wrestlers. The important thing is to be limber enough so as not to pull a muscle as you lower yourself into a squat position over the toilet.

As you lower yourself down, you'll expect to hear the announcement, "Secure all loose items before riding this ride." But you won't hear this, and instead, anything in your shirt pocket, including your cellphone, will fall into the toilet. Rescue all items immediately.

You'll know you've successfully achieved the squat position when you get an uneasy feeling that you forgot to lock the door and, any second now, someone is going to open it and have a full view of your behind.

Optional: Push the button on the machine on the wall for the sound of fake toilet flushing so people in other stalls won't know that you have such bad knees that you're still standing up, engineering a human fountain.

When you're finished, bring yourself up to a standing position (if you're not already there) and flush the toilet. Remember, ladies, no flushing of foreign objects, especially cockatiels.

As you flush, you'll notice that Japanese-style toilets channel the clean tank water through a faucet on the back of the tank so you can rinse your hands. The small basin may be full of plastic objects or aquarium toys such as colored rocks, plastic palm trees and plastic fish. This is to appease the cockatiels and make them think they're in Disneyland.

Caution: If you stay in the squat position too long, it'll cut off the blood circulation, and your legs will fall off when you finally try to stand up. Also, too much alcohol can adversely affect the squat position, resulting in poor aim (I stress -- toilet slippers!).

If you find that squatting is definitely not for you, then you'll soon locate all the McDonald's in town. If however, you made it through the entire procedure smoothly, you'll understand why the Japanese-style toilet is preferable to setting down your behind on a seat where others have set down their behinds. Furthermore, cockatiels are far less threatening than the Tidy Bowl man.

"Japan Lite" -- Japan's Best Humor by Amy Chavez, from The Japan Times. To subscribe for free, go to www.amychavez.com

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