I recently came back from Japan and anyone who has been there has something to say about the toilets. I’ve been to several countries and, for the most part, there are (at most) two buttons: one for a small flush and one for a large flush. In Japan, there are ten, all of which are not labeled in English. This isn’t too much a problem in the hotel room where there is a 5 step guide to using the toilet but when I’m at a conference with a suit and tie, it becomes somewhat of a dilemma.
So imagine a budding young PhD candidate dressed up in a suit and tie, stuck in a Japanese washroom stall at an academic conference starring down at his elongated excrement. My first thought was to try and just press buttons randomly. My second thought was that it might be a bad idea since these toilets are known to squirt water up (i.e. a bidet) and I wouldn’t want to do that while my stool stood there facing me. The next stall over flushed. I started getting nervous. “Maybe, I should try to push one of the buttons?” I thought to myself. Then someone tried to open the stall door unsuccessfully. This brought a bigger sense of urgency, I needed to do something and fast!
I carefully positioned myself to avoid any potential spray from the toilet and slowly reached over to press one the buttons. As my finger pushed up against the advanced sanitation control, I squinted, half expecting a stream of water to spray my face but nothing. I pressed the one beside it. Nothing. I started pressing every button there. Still nothing. I stood there puzzled. How many PhD candidates does it take to flush a Japanese toilet? Apparently more than one.
I was almost ready to give up and just leave but I imagined the look of horror on the next man’s face who had the misfortune of entering that stall. My thoughts next turned to the shame I would receive if I were found out. The thought of Seppuku was less than desirable. Like most things in life, I took a deep breath and thought to myself that this simple task can’t be that complicated. And in that moment of clarity beside that round brown object floating in the toilet, I realized the solution was simple. I simply lowered the toilet seat to reveal the regular toilet flushing mechanism that I was accustomed to in other parts of the world. With one flush, my troubles seem to wash away. The lesson to be learned? Whenever you’re stuck with crap, always remember to lower the toilet seat.