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Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007

JAPAN LITE

Bowled over by one very, happy day


If National Toilet Day is not a happy day for you, perhaps you need a new toilet.

You're probably wondering: Do we really need a National Toilet Day? Oh, butt, yes! It's a shame it has taken us so long to be able to officially appreciate toilets. You think toilets are smelly places? Well consider this. It's not the toilet that is smelly; it's you.

Feeling guilty now? National Toilet Day is a chance for you to make up with your toilet and to spend some quality time together. Because, believe it or not, you have a relationship with your toilet that is almost scary.

Don't even try to deny it! Think of all those times, on urgent business, you have rushed to meet your toilet. And those middle of the night rendezvous? Sometimes more than once! And when you've been drinking, you refuse to stay very far away from your beloved toilet. It's no wonder toilets have such a big head.

Really, in order for us humans to regain our proper position in the hierarchy, we ought to take control of our toilets, instead of letting them control us.

One way to do this is through remote control. The new toilets indeed have remote controls for flushing, but I think they are missing the point. The remote control should be used to bring the toilet to us. Move it from the bathroom to just inside the door in the genkan, for example, when we're coming home from a long road trip.

Or, we could use it to bring the toilet upstairs to the bedroom so we don't have to go so far, or down the stairs, in the middle of the night.

Here are some ways to honor your toilet on its special day:

Show your toilet how much you appreciate it by giving it a shampoo and a rubdown with a nice fluffy towel. Use au de toilette, facial scrub, and other toiletries to make it clean and fragrant.

Replace the scenery on the back of the toilet's tank if you have that style of Japanese toilet that recycles the tank water.

These decorations, such as tropical scenes that look like they belong in a fish tank, are sold in sets in department stores in Japan. It's a wonder the Japanese haven't moved to more traditional Japanese themes though, such as Kyoto in Autumn, or Hello Kitty in Hokkaido-snowboarding. And why not? A toilet, as the name indicates, is just a toy.

While you are in the bath section of the department store buy your toilet some new outfits: matching seat and lid covers, and a carpet skirt for the bottom. And don't forget the toilet paper roll cover. Toilets in Japan are used to having their accessories match. As a special treat, go for the expensive name brands.

I presume that National Toilet Day isn't exclusive to private toilets but includes public toilets and especially all those toilets named John.

But once we get into the subject of public toilets, it gets harder to define exactly what a toilet is. If we define a toilet as: water, a bowl and a hole, we still aren't narrowing it down enough for public toilets.

On my island, there are public toilets that would fit this description, yet would not be considered toilets by anyone but the locals.

The port, for example, is one big bowl full of water, which is flushed in and out by the tides every six hours. The water lever rises and falls just like a toilet, albeit a very slow one. It's no wonder that the local custom for fishermen is to pee into the port all day long.

If this is standard practice at small fishing ports in Japan, then National Toilet Day, to be fair, would also have to include all of Japan's ports.

The water, a bowl and a hole, definition also doesn't include all the countless places men pee into, such as the grates in the streets or the grass along the side of a path.

Clearly, especially in the countryside, all you really need to constitute a toilet is a "permeation point."

So, on National Toilet Day, go appreciate your toilet, whether it be one of the new sleek ones or an old, clunky classic model, an outhouse or a garden. Or just call out a hearty "Thanks" to nature itself.

If you're reading this article after Nov. 10, don't worry. You still have a chance to appreciate your toilet. World Toilet Day is Nov. 19th.



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