Goldilocks and The Three Bowls

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This blog entry about the events of Friday, September 24, 2004 was originally posted on October 03, 2004.

DAY 342:  Of all the amazing technology in Japan, I must give honorable mention to the advancements in the toilet industry.  Yes, the Japanese even use technology to make the daily experience of taking a dump easier.  When I first arrived at Liz’s apartment’s bathroom, I was already amazed that even without the integration of an electric device, the Japanese figured a way to improve the toilet:  after flushing the toilet, the water that fills the tank for the next flush doesn’t come straight from the pipeline.  Instead, it goes to a faucet of a sink atop the tank so that you can wash your hands with fresh water — from there, the sink drains into the tank, resulting in an added conservation of water.

Another example is the little hook on the side of a urinal in the (very clean) public men’s rooms in the train stations, put there specifically to hang an umbrella so that a guy can shake his drips clean after taking a piss.  And I must not forget to mention that Japanese hand dryers, unlike American hand dryers, actually dry your hands without the need to wipe your hands on your pants afterwards, with a blast of air that makes your hands’ skin jiggle like they’re doing MACH 3.

“Where are the hi-tech robot toilets?” I asked Liz.  I knew that Japan had hi-tech toilets somewhere, I just wanted to know where.

“Probably in the department stores in Shibuya,” she answered.  And so, while Liz went to work, I went off to do her suggested agenda to see two neighborhoods of Tokyo:  Harajuku, known for its famous Meiji-jingu Shrine and youth culture; and Shibuya, known for its crowded shopping district — although I’d soon know it for its hi-tech toilets.


THE MEIJI-JINGU SHRINE, a 1958 reconstruction of the original 1920 one built in memory of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, was the most noteworthy highlight of the Harajuku district, especially for those newlyweds that just got married since it was the setting for many wedding photos — taken by American tourists.  Some people not involved in a wedding party might come to Harajuku for its toys for all ages (kids, teens, nostalgic twenty-something guys and adults); some might come for a bite at Nathan’s, but most come for the crazy youth fashions. 

The stereotypical Japanese person may be characterized by a shy, reserved demeanor, but that has rapidly changed with Japanese youth.  Alienated teens find their way of expression in Japan through what they wear. 

The easiest and most widely seen hip Japanese fashion for girls is the schoolgirl uniform look — it’s not just in Sailor Moon and Kill Bill Vol. 1.  From what I’d seen, the uniforms are often worn — even when it isn’t a school day — for its inherent sex appeal.  Some teenage girls have been known to hike up their skirts (when Mom isn’t looking) almost up to their ass cheeks for full effect.  As hot as that sounds for all you horny guys out there, let us not forget that many of these girls are only twelve.

Harajuku was the center of unique Japanese fashion, from the guy dressed up as an non-color coordinated Magritte figure (complete with derby hat) to the girl in a pink outfit suitable for the arcade game Dance Revolution to the group dressed up in A Clockwork Orange-style meets Jackson Pollack.  These fashion rebels were found around Takeshita Street, a hip pedestrian mall of shops selling counterculture t-shirts and knee-high striped legwarmers, the popular retro fashion trend for girls who aren’t daring enough to wear the other stuff. 

One of the funniest-looking fashion trends that I’d seen on girls all around Tokyo was the retro fairy tale look.  Girls dressed up in fancy dresses usually seen on small old-fashion dolls, sometimes with a lacey hat, resulting in a look that was reminiscent of Goldilocks


FASHION IN SHIBUYA WAS A TAD DIFFERENT than that of Harajuku with its fancy modern-style department stores catering to the young trendy set.  The neighborhood was particularly busy on weekends when crowds of people arrived by the thousands (when traffic wasn’t passing through) out the Shibuya station’s Hachiko Exit, named after the loyal dog who came back to the station every day to find his master — not knowing he had died at work one day. 

As heartwarming as the story of Hachiko was, I only really cared about one thing in Shibuya:  the hi-tech toilets of the department stores.  The first department store I checked out was Seibu, a multi-level store with mostly trendy clothes for young women.  I found the men’s room on an upper level and saw that I had two options in the stalls:  the squat toilet or the Western style — I chose the latter.  I sat on the throne and expelled the Nathan’s chili and cheese dog I had in Harajuku, thinking the experience would be a bit enhanced than one I might have had at home — but Seibu’s toilet bowls were just regular toilets with no fancy gadgets.

This toilet is too plain, I thought.

Consulting Liz’s Lonely Planet book I wandered down the block to the OICITY department store, a Bloomingdale’s-like multi-level shopping experience.  I found the icon for the men’s room on the store directory and rushed to the toilet even though I had no urge for a Number Two.  Inside the toilet stall (picture above) I saw an electric control panel on the side of the seat similar to the armrest on an airplane.  I sat on the seat and took it out for a test ride.  The labels were in English and it was easy to navigate — one button triggered a robotic arm to come from underneath and started spraying water up my ass.  I thought I’d flinch with a sudden spurt of cold water, but it was nice and warm already — plus I could control the water pressure to my liking.

The only problem with the toilet bowl was that after sitting in the built-in bidet function for a while, I was pretty wet down there, and water just dripped down my butt and my scrotum when I got up — my underwear had to soak up the excess water.

This toilet is too wet.

There was a big event going on across the street that Saturday in Shibuya — it was the first weekend of the grand opening of OICITY’s sibling store OIOIJAM, a multi-level fashion palace marketed to a younger hip crowd (although there weren’t any Goldilocks dresses).  I ignored the opening sales and head on up to one of the upper floors to check out the hip toilet scene.  Inside the men’s room was another robotic toilet, this one more complicated than the other one, with a control panel suitable for the captain’s chair on the Starship Enterprise.  Despite no urge to expel a “captain’s log” (say that like Shatner), I pulled down my pants and boxer briefs (there’s the answer to that question if you were wondering) and sat down — the robotic bidets don’t activate unless there was someone sitting on the seat (believe me, I tried).  The buttons and knobs were labeled in Japanese but I managed to figure out the pressure and temperature control for the upside-down shower. 

But wait, there’s more!  There were two options for nozzle positioning — one for cleaning the butt, one for cleaning a woman’s privates after a Number One — plus seat temperature control, a deodorizer (of varied levels) and more importantly, a dryer.  This “Starship Enterprise” toilet took toilets to where no toilet had gone before.

Ah, this toilet is just right.

It was a shame I didn’t have any urge to “drop some kids off at the pool,” otherwise I would have had the true hi-tech toilet experience.  Perhaps I should have had more Nathan’s hot dogs like that Japanese guy who wins the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest in Brooklyn’s Coney Island every summer, but I just wasn’t in the mood.  (By the way, I’m sure that guy has a hi-tech toilet in his house after all he eats.)


AS THE SONG GOES, “The freaks come out at night,” and in this case, around sundown.  I went back to Harajuku to check out what “freaks” were out, like the group of girls all made up to look like cats and the usual goth types.  Harajuku in the weekend afternoons was also known for its indie band scene; anyone could set up an area with speakers and instruments and put on a little concert.  As I wondered around nearby Yoyogi Park, usually frequented by cyclists, I saw music groups set up in different areas of the park, playing all different genres, from rock bands to hard rock bands (complete with their own groupies), jazz bands to one band that played Irish jig music.

As good as these indie bands were, they were no match for the freaks that came out to the karaoke bar that night.  Liz had invited a bunch of friends and co-workers to come out to perform the traditional Japanese custom of embarrassing yourself singing in front of others, but only one friend, a half-Japanese American ex-pat named Cal came out.  Apparently he was more American than Japanese because he refused to grab the mic and burst into song.  Liz and I encouraged him, but he still refused — although we did catch him get into it when Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” came on.  The karaoke bar was part of a full night of beer and yakitori (grilled food, Japanese style) at a lively yakitori bar in Liz’s neighborhood where the cooks playfully shouted orders to each other.

After feeding on the Japanese delicacies of beef tongue and chicken cartilage, I finally had a little more material in my bowels for a Number Two.  I wished I could have gone into OIOIJAM that night to do my business on the Starship Enterprise toilet, but they had already closed by that time.






Next entry: Sensory Overload

Previous entry: Inner Child




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Comments for “Goldilocks and The Three Bowls”

  • First Again!!!

    Thats hilarious! I’m glad you enjoyed the freaky assortment of dress over there in Harajuku! I just saw a dvd on japanese design and it was prefaced with those nutty kids!

    Wow! Meiji-Jingu shrine entrance looks awesome!

    Thanks for the tour of Japanese toilets… and bowel relief aside, all this talk of food (2nd post in a row), my stomach is starting to growl…. Argh!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/03  at  08:58 AM


  • Erik - what you aren’t sightseeing today?  LOL Is it pouring rain down there too?  It sucks in Tokyo. 

    FYI - Nathan’s and groupies pics not working

    Posted by Liz  on  10/03  at  10:51 AM


  • damn, that town looks pretty cool.  i can only imagine what those people do during halloween?  (uh, do they celebrate it there??)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/03  at  04:49 PM


  • This was a great entry to read on a Monday morning =)  Cool bidets =)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/03  at  04:56 PM


  • Scott - they don’t celebrate Hallowe’en here.  Sometimes the kids get dressed up and go into school in costume, but otherwise the Japanese don’t do anything.  The ex-pat community on the other hand…

    Posted by Liz  on  10/03  at  05:04 PM


  • *raises fist in the air*

    Damn you oogy!

    Erik: lol @ “captain’s log”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/03  at  05:49 PM


  • Goldilocks and the three bowls - I love it!  I’m glad you found one that was “just…right”  haha

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/03  at  06:51 PM


  • Okay, so if I didn’t get to celebrate Halloween, I’d just go crazy… it’s the best holiday!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/03  at  08:51 PM


  • duh…you should have just drank coffee for the full starship enterprise shitter experience…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/04  at  05:07 PM


  • Dude, you’re lucky that thing didn’t spray until you sat down…

    My first toilet experience in Japan was with an older model (it looked like it was from the 80’s by japanese standars). After I number 1ed I was looking for the leaver but all I could see was the hi-tech foreign armrest console full of buttons with Japanese characters. Thinking one of them must say flush I just picked one and pressed it.

    Sure enough, my stupidity was rewarded by a upward spray from a jet so powerful that rickoshed off my face and hit the ceiling!

    After trying wipe the water off of the ceiling tiles and the floor hoping my hosts wouldn’t findout, I looked on the other side of the toilet and found the familar leaver.
    Welcome to Japan idiot!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  10/04  at  10:41 PM


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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Sensory Overload

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Inner Child




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