I'm becoming dangerously obsessed with Japanese toilets. They fascinate me.
I've discovered that much of our cultural identity can be discovered through our toilets. Take my childhood. I used to regularly attend semi-professional football matches of the lowest league variety on most Saturdays. At half time, the exodus of men to the toilet ensued. I say toilet in the loosest possible way. It was a whitewashed alley with overgrown weeds and trash of all variety ranging from beer bottles to silver foil pie cartons to cigarette packets to piss-soaked carrier bags. You knew you were near the toilet because you would be overcome by the sickly stench of the piss of a hundred men, mixed with cigarettes and stale beer. The toilet was a corridor and a wall. You simply pissed up against the wall and tried to miss your own feet and more importantly the feet of any staggering older men joining the piss parade. Looking back - it spoke volumes about English culture in the 1980s.
How far does Irvine Welsh convey Scottish culture in the 1990s through his depiction of the toilet in Trainspotting? Quite well, I would suggest.
On the lifted up lid of the toilet are a set of instructions. Not of the 'how to piss or shit' variety. No... instructions on how to use the electronic panel that is found opposite the toilet on the wall. Sitting down is an unexpected experience. The seat is artificially heated, providing your arse with a warm glow on contact. The electronic panel makes the Millennium Falcon's dashboard look simple. Lights. Buttons. And not a word of English.
A symbol showing a fountain of water squirting towards a sitting man can only be interpreted at a bidet. But where does it come from. A hidden device emanates from the inside of the bowl and jets of water provide a cleansing experience. A sort of colonic irrigation with a fixed turret water pistol.
But I went for the button with the red toggle attached. Red should have been the sign. But I ignored it. I pressed the button and a light flashed on the wall. Small, but alarming, because within a split second I realised that I'd hit the panic button. (Or the 'oh shit' button, as a friend since pointed out to me!!)
England... panic button. Christ. People take forever to respond. But I'd seen Japanese efficiency on the Tokyo subway. It now became a race against time. Curl out the last remains of my turd, wipe up, clean up and get the hell out.
Turd complete. Clean up complete. Suddenly a knock on the door. Japanese efficiency. I was met by two maintenance men and a security guard. No one spoke English and I didn't know the phrase, "I'm a fucking idiot and was curious about the big button in the toilet" in Japanese.
The poor guys had to enter the bathroom less than 20 seconds of my shit flushing away. I'm so glad Japanese people are super-polite. They reset the panic mode to normal. Had a laugh with me (or at me) and returned to their daily lives, no doubt with a story about a smelly English twat who pressed the wrong button in the bathroom and should probably be more considerate to people who are forced to smell his shit.