First, there is the fairly familiar.This is the toilet in the boys' bathroom. Although it has an odd pipe running from the tank to the bowl, looking a little E.T.-esque, this is a commode I can identify and have the confidence in using.
There is something a little different about this bathroom set-up however, but a change that I can embrace: The toilet paper holder. No more do I have to mess with that stupid spring-filled spinning contraption that only people with above-average hand-eye coordination skills can change without a fumble. Now there is this:
Simply take the empty cardboard and pull it up and out of the holder. Take the new roll and push it up through the holder - the arms bend up and then immediately fall in place to hold the new roll. As you can see, there is even an instructional picture on the inside of the metal flap to explain this three-second process.
Ta-da! Even Xan can change the roll now...no more empty-roll excuses from anyone in the family! And, of course, just to stir the pot on this decades-old argument, the toilet paper always comes from over the top to hang down. Just for the record, I do not know what the metal flap is for. It lays over the top of the toilet paper roll, but I find it annoying because the toilet paper tears right at its edge and then is hard to grab the next time you need some. The flap in my bathroom stays up.
The next toilet is one that is located in the base library. A very familiar style, yet with another feature I could embrace: to flush you step on the button on the floor. No touching nasty handles or doing the limited-space-in-the-stall roundhouse kick to the back of the toilet to flush.
The more traditional toilet in Japan is the one below, where women with really good knees and an excellent sense of balance manage not to soil their shoes. This one is at the Iwakuni bus station. Fortunately, at most locations such as these, there is at least one "handicapped" toilet stall. In this stall is one of the more familiar "western" style toilets that, if there is a line outside of its stall, is full of elderly Japanese women and Americans.
Novelty is one thing, but complete confusion is yet another, in my opinion. For example, this was in the women's bathroom at the Hiroshima train station, sitting in the middle of the bathroom, without a door, across from the sinks:
But nothing was more fascinating or confusing than the family/handicapped bathroom at Nafco, the Japanese version of Home Depot or Lowes.
Now, mind you, this is just ONE CORNER of the bathroom. There is a lot of writing everywhere and I have no idea what it says. I can tell you that those big red symbols on the wall are not warnings of immanent danger because I did, in fact, use the toilet pictured here and nothing painful happened. But, boy, was there a lot to keep an individual entertained! Unfortunately, I had both of my nervous sons with me (this was only the second time we had been out in town and they had no interest in playing, "Hmm... what does this do?" with me. They have too much of their father in them. ;p ) so I did not have the chance to push buttons. However, the next time I visit that place, I am going to lock myself in and figure it all out. Video on that to be posted later...
Anyway, here is the control panel for the toilet. It appears to be very similar to the one this guy with the fabulous accent took an amusing 81-second video of in 2008: Computer Operated Toilet
While the computerized toilet is an intriguing novelty I would like to spend more time experimenting with, the rest of the bathroom befuddled me further:
This fixture pictured above was in the corner to the left of the toilet (of you are looking at said toilet). I initially thought it was a sink. But, the bowl is funnel-shaped and what's with the shower head? It's about 3 feet off the ground, so too short to be a shower. Besides, there was already a more traditional sink in the adjacent corner:
|By the way, that handle beneath the box where the soap is housed does not turn the faucet on. It plugs the sink. The faucet is a no-hands-needed sensor faucet. This American was perplexed by that for about 5 seconds.|
A place to hang your baby! Perfect! I have seen these in America but those come with less-than convenient belts, buckles and five-point harnesses that are hard to figure out when you have the baby, diaper bag, and purse, and REALLY have to pee. I like the drop-your-baby-in-to-hang version here. Hands-free and convenient!
So, after pondering the hang-your-baby-up contraption, I pondered the second sink. Could it be in lieu of a changing table? No wipes necessary, just spray the kid down? This would be most useful for those projectile vomiter toddlers, too. Much easier than trying to force their pukey heads under the facet in the bathroom sink without drowning them. But, this is just my American assumption. I am open to other suggestions or facts...
Aug. 24: Fellow Marine Corps wife Megan in Pensacola, who was also recently stationed in Iwakuni, said that her friend sent her this photo to help - directions!