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Saturday, Sept. 16, 2006

JAPAN LITE

Commode confession of Sound Princess


All the talk of royalty these days has got me to thinking -- has anyone else ever wondered why so many royal words are associated with toilets? Think about it. You sit on the throne. If you're a woman in a public bathroom in Japan, you probably use the Oto Hime (Sound Princess) to cover up the sounds of tinkling. If you step onto a yacht, you are likely to use a toilet made by Crown. It begs the question: Is there really a connection between royalty and toilets? The answer requires me to plunge further into the toilet psyche.

News photo
Old Shed? No, an 18th century throne room that was used until recently. Such outhouses are larger than those in other countries, as they are used for bathing as well. AMY CHAVEZ PHOTO

On one hand, maybe manufacturers have come up with these names so that we will believe that their products are somehow endorsed by the royal family. If so, I'd like to know if they are receiving royalties. Or perhaps toilet companies want us to feel like a pampered royal when we use their products. If so, then why should we be encouraged to feel royal, of all places, while on the toilet? We might be forgiven for having a whimsical royal moment while driving around town in our Toyota Crown, or when tasting the luxurious flavor of Crown Royal whiskey, but while on the toilet? You'd think that even on the most luxurious of yachts, the mere thought of sitting on the crown would be an insult to the royal families of the world.

Butt, you say, perhaps toilet companies are merely suggesting their products are at the standard that a royal would use -- good enough to be the head of state.

While this may be true for Japan nowadays, just a decade ago, Japan had such a reputation for filthy toilets, there was an entire page on the Internet dedicated to the location of the dirtiest toilets in Japan. Then toilet manufacturing giants such as Toto started flaunting their toilet technology in public areas. I remember walking into a public toilet five years ago and being so in awe of the cleanliness and gadgetry, I thought: "Whoa! Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore!" No, urine Japan, and ready to meet a different kind of Wiz.

Most public toilets nowadays offer deluxe Western-style toilets that feature bottom washers, bottom dryers and heated seats. Some public bathrooms even have odor-decomposing walls.

While wee in the United States would never imagine outfitting even our home bathrooms with such luxurious thrones, half the households in Japan pay the princely sum of $3,000 for one. Those privy to the wonders of modern toilet technology can then empress their friends with remote-control toilet seats that play music and open and close on command. For the first time, at weekly bridge parties, everyone will have an equal chance at a royal flush. Some toilet seats even measure your body fat ratio with electrodes, and others glow in the dark. In short, Japanese toilet companies are out to make sure that no man will yearn the urinal. For the new, modern whiz kid.

Japan, proud of its toilet technology, has even started a toilet college and has sent experts to Singapore to teach bathroom attendants how to properly clean toilets in public restrooms.

I suppose it would not be fair for me to criticize, from my humble commode, one of Japan's original pit-style toilets, which makes sounds so atrocious that no Oto Hime could ever cover them up. Over the years, this toilet has provided many a child with stories of the toilet monster and many an adult with night soil to fertilize gardens with. There's no need to worry you may smell up the bathroom or forget to flush. And the toilet seat doesn't sing, so you have to do the singing yourself.

As I sit on my throne right now, singing, I can finally feel the royal connection. I have become my own Sound Princess.

Learn Japanese toilet jargon at Audio Japan Lite: dollarbooks.tripod.com/podcasts.html


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