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Asia has the U.S. beat on plumbing. Last night, I hauled my exhausted body into a spotless but poorly heated Tokyo hotel room. The first destination after dropping my bags was the restroom. I expected a porcelain seat of average description, but I found that this humble piece of necessary furnishing truly rises to the title throne when in the East.
The smooth, cream-colored, plastic chair was in a bathroom that covered a maximum of twelve square feet. A low and unobtrusive seat, it was unlike the white porcelain behemoths with bulky tanks stodgily piled atop that are found back home. No tank was in sight; the furnishing looked as if it came from the future. The lid was closed and hugged the rim on which it sat. Along an armrest on the right-hand side, a row of lighted buttons winked becomingly. The day was long, and the evening cold. I wanted to get ready for bed. I lifted the lid and recognized the basin's form.
The first surprise came as I seated myself on the plastic ring - it was warm! The chilly room was forgotten, as I settled in on the comfortingly toasty frame. As I sat, I examined the row of lighted buttons on the small panel to my right. All of the labels were in Japanese. I was dependent on the pictures to figure out the function of each button. From front to back I saw a dark blue button with an Asian-language character I do not understand, a green button with a cartoonish bottom hovering over an equally cartoonish fountain, and a pink button featuring a cartoon lady's face. Behind these three buttons, two more controls labeled in foreign characters taunted me. They seemed to be up-and-down controls, for each had a row of five lights next to it.
Gathering my courage to press a button, I figured that "when in Rome ...". I knew what it would do. I expected the water. But it kept spraying. And spraying. How do I make it stop? I was afraid to stand up; it might flood the bathroom. I tried pushing the same button again. Still spraying. I tried the slider buttons. Still spraying. But the sliders changed the temperature and water pressure. Nice to know. The only button left was the blue one. I pressed it. The water stopped. Then it hit me: Blue equals water.
The only things the bidets do not have are blow dryers, unless I just haven't yet found the control for that. Certainly, these will be added to the repertoire within the next few years, if it hasn't already happened. If the time comes that I build a house, I'm getting one of these - for the comfort of the heated seat and the hygienic appeal of the rest.
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Last updated or reviewed on 1/15/13