Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sabazushi. Kyoto, December 2005.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Where the precision spray is coming from

The Japanese bathroom can be a disorienting place for a Western visitor; behind the door marked "otoko" (male) or "onna" (female), one will variously find a remote control-operated edifice fit for the shuttle or a porcelain-glorified hole in the ground. This series of photographs, taken at the ANA Hotel Kyoto, captures a modest example of the former in action.

Fig. 1: While the toilet in the first picture looks fairly ordinary, the eye of anyone who has visited Japan will quickly pick out the small control panel stage-right (see Fig. 2: enlargement below). While such panels may control seat temperature, or even play a discretion-enhancing song, what they nearly always offer is one or more strategically targeted streams of water, some for feminine needs and some for more universally applicable cleaning tasks (the pink and green buttons, respectively). This is a document of the second hygenic purpose.

Why bother to document? Because cursory examination of the Japanese space-age toilet will not reveal where the precision spray is coming from—there’s no obvious spout in the bowl—, and that’s kind of creepy. Or if not creepy, at least the sort of thing one ought to know.

Please note that because the same advanced sensors on the toilet that prevent both accidental misfires and viewing also make it difficult to trigger the ass-washer without actually, er, using it, the series was painstakingly constructed from the best of several attempts with my camera in 3-fps motor advance mode. Composition may have suffered.

Fig. 3: Spray nozzle at full extension; as you can see, it is deployed from the back of the bowl just a few inches beneath the seat. (You may wish to note that some polite person has placed a towel on the floor to protect it from the spray.*)

The trick is to sit on the seat, press the button, and leap up after the nozzle has had a chance to deploy but before it begins to spray. One must then be quick in order to turn, focus, and snap the picture, because the sensor notices the absence of an ass and withdraws the nozzle very quickly.

* That polite person is me.

Fig. 4: Spray at initiation phase. Note the "shotgun" pattern: the spray is clearly meant only for accuracy at close range.

The water itself was just on the warm side of room temperature.

Fig. 5: Spray at zenith phase. I was surprised at how powerful the stream was—it nearly reached the opposite wall a few feet away.

Fig. 6: Nozzle post-spray; flush phase. If you look closely, you will note that some water still runs and drops down into the bowl; I speculate that this is to ensure cleanliness in the event of particulate debris.

Turtle-like, the nozzle at this point quietly withdraws.

I'll leave the cultural implications (and I'm not saying there are any) to you, imaginary reader.
Mt. Fuji. December 2005.

Is this thing on?

Well, is it?