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  • Paula Tiberius

Toilets & Tattoos In Tokyo

Dr. Ava and I are back on the road, this time for seminars coming up in India. We land in New Delhi in about five hours, but for the last 24 hours we’ve been in Tokyo.

Right after I took this picture, a guard came over to tell me that I wasn’t supposed to take this picture. Can you see the ‘no photos’ sign below it? I think the sign itself was not the issue though, as right underneath here there were dozens of uniformed guards in hospital masks going through people’s personal things.

After that dubious start, things improved quickly. This was the view from our hotel room!

Here we are at Shibuya Crossing – the Times Square of Tokyo!

And this was our toilet.

Its seat begins to lift automatically when you open the stall door. Hello!

And these were our toilet’s controls.

Spray, Soft Spray, Bidet, Pressure adjust and of course, Stop. Not pictured here is the warmed toilet seat, and the way it gurgles gently after you sit down. Is it excited to receive the pee? There’s also a button on the top of this panel denoted by a musical note that triggers flushing noises. Apparently Japanese women were wasting so much water with their pee-shy flushing that this development was necessary.

Yes, the Japanese take their toilets very seriously, and now that I’ve had the pleasure of using them – warm toilet seat in the middle of the night! – I find it hard to believe that Americans are settling for less.

And speaking of Japanese advantage, I’ve always thought that Americans had the market cornered on great customer service. But now I see that reputation is largely built on issuing prompt refunds for department store goods and getting the dinner check while your coffee’s still hot. We’ve got nothing on Tokyo.

Not only do the toilets perform, but taxi doors open as the car comes to a stop. Why would I ever want to touch a dirty ol’ car door handle? I wouldn’t! And never worry about slippery seat backs. It’s standard issue for taxis to employ these crazy white lace seat covers.

At first Ava suggested that perhaps these covers were made by our first taxi driver’s wife, but then we noticed they were standard issue. Was there an Italian wedding wholesaler having a fire sale?

On a related note, have you ever been concerned about the wellbeing of  your purse and other belongings while you’re dining at a restaurant? Never fear! In Tokyo your waiter will place a cloth napkin over your purse sitting on an empty chair, or, as in one wine bar we went to, there will be special clean rubber buckets for this purpose. Weird, but kind of nice.

At another restaurant, when I asked for the restroom, the waiter not only showed me where it was, but walked me there and opened the door for me! I half expected him to follow me in and open the stall door, which he didn’t. But when I opened it myself, I found a warm-seated toilet already opening for my convenience!

It seems like Japan is constantly developing products for the comfort of its people. Dehydrated during your day? There are drink vending machines everywhere!

Does your cold beverage need sweetening and you don’t want to wait for those pesky sugar granules to dissolve? In Tokyo you won’t have this problem. Tear-off simple syrup pods!

Need a foot massage? Or underarm ‘sweat pads?’

And seriously, how much cooler are their convenience store snacks than ours? I actually bought fresh donuts in a re-sealable vellum pack. Mini-donuts, people! Anyone who’s ever seen me eat fresh mini-donuts at a carnival knows how important this is to me.

Or how about weird buildings with vertical gardens hanging on them?

Or how about the fact that they have such a voracious appetite for consuming popular culture that they still have a Tower Records! With this cool slogan on the front of the building!

I told Violet all about how Japan is the birthplace of Hello Kitty, the beloved and ubiquitous white kitten with the giant head that is synonymous with ‘cute.’  She was VERY excited about that and is now expecting a good haul from a Tokyo Hello Kitty store. This one below certainly delivered.

Back at the hotel I took a hot tub at the spa. It was round and tranquil, lined with tiny turquoise tiles, and it overlooked the city’s famous tower and buildings. I sat there staring out at the city, watching the sun set and the city lights come up, feeling so grateful. I wished Richard could be there with me.

Then I noticed a little sign in the corner of the room that said No Cameras, No Phones, No Visible Tattoos. So…not so much with Richard joining me.

Later I read the fine print of the spa rules where they specify that members of the crime syndicate (Yakuza) are not welcome. I guess those guys probably have a lot of tattoos…

Tokyo is not a city that can be understood in one day, and I’m sure Tokyo doesn’t represent all of Japanese culture, but dammit, I felt like I really learned something.

See you in India!

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