Washlet – Extreme Culture Shock

Dream price!

WOW! Just wow. For some reason I had pictured Tokyo in my mind as perhaps being a rather drab city in the winter. Nope. Most everything I lay my eyes on is new, novel, extremely interesting and, mostly, vividly coloured! I eventually decided to just leave my camera in pocket because nearly everything I encountered seemed most picture-worthy.

I couldn’t possibly share even a fraction of the intriguing things I’ve experienced in my first few hours in japan. But here are a few examples:

The first few steps I took from Japanese customs into the airport were interrupted by a television camera crew, a man asking me questions in Japanese and holding a microphone up to my face, and a translator hastily explaining to me what he was asking – How long was I staying? Where was I going? What was I really looking forward to doing? After a few minutes, I had to say thank you and graciously (I hope) back away from the camera to find a seat where I could get my bearings. I’m sure some television audience will be getting a good laugh at a very culture-shocked me.

Wandering around the airport looking for an atm to get some yen to purchase a train ticket. Making the mistake of not buying a SIM card to get data on my phone right at the airport. Purchasing a train ticket; using said ticket at ticketing gate; boarding the #2 train; not being able to make sense of any of the train maps, aka rats’ nests punctuated with Kanji symbols; staring fixedly at a scrolling LED sign for over an hour as the train screeched through the night, hoping against hope to recognize a single station name; emerging from deep underground at the Asakusa station into a narrow back alley; wandering around until I located the skytower; following it to the river; using a combination of dead-reckoning and recognizable landmarks on my meager google maps print out to eventually find Bunka Hostel; and collapsing into my capsule bunk at 4am Edmonton time, having only slept two hours the previous night.

Exploring pedestrian alleyways, avoiding meandering bikes and the occasional right-hand-drive car (so they drive on the left, right?), stopping to pose for pictures with school girls, having coffee and a delicious raw ham BLTish sandwich for breakfast, and attempting to navigate an Imodium and toothpaste purchase by mainly hand gestures and cell-phone translation.

Figure 2. Washlet control panel, a) Please god, make it stop! b) Nope. c) No, no, no. d) Oh hell NO!
Figure 1. Washlet schematics

And then of course there’s my inevitable first encounter with the technologically advanced “washlet,” see Figure 1. Again I must say WOW, just wow! There are a few extra features that washlets have which are missing from the toilets I’m used to back home. I’ll do my best to explain what I can about them from what I learned during my first encounter.

  1. The heated seat (Fig. 1): This turns out to be a rather pleasing feature, once of course the initial shock and confusion of the unsuspecting user is overcome.
  2. The sensors: I believe that the pressure sensor allows the washlet to know when it has an active user. I’m also pretty sure there are other sensors that provide additional information to the washlet regarding the user’s behavior, however as yet, I’m still uncertain as to their locations, numbers, and type of data they collect and issue to the washlet regarding the user’s state.
  3. The control panel (Fig. 1): An assortment of buttons, LEDs, toggles, sliders, and settings, all labeled with kanji, hiragana, and/or katakana symbols along with a few rather alarming pictograms (Fig. 2). Based upon the results of early attempts at button-mashing this panel in a futile effort to find the flush button, I must surmise it was designed as some sort of sick incentives-based system to encourage foreigners to learn Japanese by generously rewarding success while ruthlessly punishing failure.
  4. The pre-mister/sprayer? Not sure what this is/does besides making a faint misting/spraying sound upon first engagement of user with washlet? As of yet I have not mustered the courage for further investigation.
  5. The multiple extending probes: After hearing some rather strange noises emanating from beneath me (brought on, I presume, from the a fore-mentioned preliminary, experimental button pushing) I decided to take a peak between my legs only to notice a number of ports within the bowl, one of which was open to allow an ~4″ probe to extend outwards and upwards from the inside of the bowl (Fig. 1) uncomfortably close to my junk.
  6. The numerous upward-directed sprayers: Although others very likely lay dormant and hidden, I have come to believe that at least a few are directly or indirectly related to the previously mentioned probes.
  7. The flusher (Fig 1): The two modes (generous or economical flow) of this necessary feature of the washlet are fairly easy to operate – the hard part is correctly locating and identifying this absolutely critical feature, which I must assume is purposefully hidden from the user, for what purpose I can only vaguely guess at.
  8. The wash basin: Resembling a small hand sink and located atop the tank (Fig. 1), I presume this feature of the washlet is provided for the user to wash his or her hands, however I cannot be certain of this at this time. It has an ingenious design allowing the water filling the tank to first pass through a faucet-like apparatus (Fig. 1).

*Disclaimer: Readers use the washlet at their own risk. Please take the above descriptions for what they are – the guesstimations of a novice washletee. I accept no responsibility for the improper use of such devices based upon the above descriptions.

On a related note, I profoundly apologize to the man waiting for the stall who I briefly met while exiting said stall this morning, after narrowly escaping with my life.
I must say that I am profoundly overwhelmed by Tokyo thus far. One thing is certain, I will not soon be bored here. And the people are in general extremely kind, helpful, polite, and interesting. But I’ve had enough adventure for one day and am headed for my capsule to do some much needed research into Japanese culture and language, to strengthen my extremely limited understanding of the hiragana, to start learning some of the katakana, and to hopefully track down a washlet user manual online.

Bunka Hostel lobby
Capsule 325
Coffin-like, but cozy
Posted in Travel
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6 thoughts on “Washlet – Extreme Culture Shock

  1. Elaine says

    Ah ha ha ha! Enjoy.

  2. Aunti says

    Maybe the TV crew thought you were Orlando Bloom 😉

  3. Karen Elgert says

    Oh my gosh Landon! Loved reading this and having a laugh. We got a beday for Christmas and I have no understanding of what it sprays etc and so could laugh along with you about the unknown. And this is only day one. Can’t wait to hear about more of your adventures. Have fun and be safe!

  4. Cari says

    Coughing-fit here. Brought on by excessive laughing. It would have made better TV if the film crew held the interview as you exited the washlet.

  5. lmutch says

    Thanks all for your comments, reading them and writing new posts definitely helps me feel a little more grounded when almost everything thing around me is unfamiliar 🙂

  6. Tiara says

    Bahahah! Yep, having my morning coffee and narrowly avoiding spraying it on the computer screan. Really enjoying this Washlet experience (and agree with moms comment about the tv crew hahah) as well as your other observations and experiences so far. I just found this (for some reason FB news feed was hiding these posts from me?) so now I have some posts to catch up on!


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