Where lavatory humour hits the bottom line


Some gags never fail to cause hilarity, and the Japanese Toilet Squirting Routine is one of these. I had the pleasure of witnessing it again at the house of an Australian friend. All the necessary elements were in place: a polite dinner party atmosphere, a newly arrived expatriate - known in Japanese as nama gaijin (raw foreigner) - and, most important, a modern Japanese bathroom.

The Routine goes like this: Scene: an expatriate dining room. Profiteroles are being served.

Raw foreigner: Excuse me, darling, but where's the ..? Could I ..?

Hostess: Of course, it's the little door on the left, just behind the . . . that's the one!

Hostess looks knowingly around assembled guests. Guests fall silent with sadistic smirks. Somebody sniggers.


Raw foreigner (off): Eek!

She scampers back in, water dripping from clothes, hair and earrings.

Raw foreigner: It ... it just went off in my face!

Assembled guests convulse with laughter, fall off their chairs, choke on their profiteroles.

There are few more dangerous and unpredictable domestic appliances than the Japanese lavatory. The torture comes in two kinds. At one end of the scale are the traditional squat lavatories still found in a surprising number of offices and railway stations. The hazards of these are familiar to many travellers in Asia. You need the calf muscles of a hardened skier to suspend yourself painlessly over the ceramic trough. Even when you are in position there is the constant danger of change, keys and perhaps passports slipping out of pockets and into the abyss.

But just as deadly in their way are the top end of the range: the techno- toilets which are de rigueur in well-to-do homes. The simplest model is called the Warmlet and contains a heating element in the seat - very comforting on cold days. Then there is the Washlet, a much more complicated affair, with a bank of controls which would not be out of place on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. As well as the heater, it features a bidet and blow-dryer - all in the single ceramic bowl. Each function has its own button, and there are dials controlling the power and temperature of the water jet. The problem is the functions are labelled only in Japanese.

This was the undoing of the victim at the dinner party. Having finished her lavatory business and washed her hands, she chose a button at random, hoping it was the flush. Immediately, a small, angled nozzle extended itself with a whir from under the rim. Without warning, it sprayed hot water straight into her face. She will never make that mistake again.

The ingenuity of the toilet wizards is not confined to the private home. Many urinals in public buildings are equipped with a light sensor which detects the presence of a customer and flushes automatically when he moves away.

Plans have just been unveiled to install a new type of mobile toilet for climbers on Mount Fuji. According to reports "it uses a kerosene heater to dry-burn human excrement, considerably reducing the volume of such waste and facilitating collection."

Japan's biggest toilet manufacturer is Toto, a visionary corporation which once advertised the Warmlet with the slogan: "Your bottom will like it after three tries. Don't let people say behind your back that you have a dirty bottom." Toto's big 21st-century project is the so-called Intelligent Toilet, which will automatically process and analyse waste and warn the householder in advance of any medical worries. But the company has a problem. Despite its immense domestic popularity, the Washlet has entirely failed to catch on overseas. In 1993, 720,000 techno-loos were sold at home at 100,000 yen (pounds 635) each, but only 720 in the whole of Europe, most of them to overseas Japanese. So Toto has set up an entire department - the New Concept Group - to get to the bottom of this imbalance. Questionnaires have been dispatched, and foreigners have been whisked off to mountain retreats for research weekends where their views on toilet hygiene are eagerly canvassed by marketing men.

The latest buzz is that Toto has come up with its New Concept - a "Western Washlet", tailored specifically for foreign buttocks, which will be in the shops in the next couple of years. Watch out for the Squirting Toilet Gag, coming soon to a bathroom near you.


Suggested Topics
Alexis Sanchez has completed a £35m move to Arsenal, the club have confirmed
sportGunners complete £35m signing of Barcelona forward
Poor teachers should be fearful of not getting pay rises or losing their job if they fail to perform, Steve Fairclough, headteacher of Abbotsholme School, suggested
voicesChris Sloggett explains why it has become an impossible career path
world cup 2014
Ray Whelan was arrested earlier this week
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
In a minor key: Keira Knightley in the lightweight 'Begin Again'
Arts and Entertainment
Celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum
peopleIndian actress known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Bollywood' was 102
Wayne’s estate faces a claim for alleged copyright breaches
newsJohn Wayne's heirs duke it out with university over use of the late film star's nickname
Life and Style
It beggars belief: the homeless and hungry are weary, tortured, ghosts of people – with bodies contorted by imperceptible pain
lifeRough sleepers exist in every city. Hear the stories of those whose luck has run out
Mick Jagger performing at Glastonbury
Life and Style
fashionJ Crew introduces triple zero size to meet the Asia market demand
Santi Cazorla, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal launch the new Puma Arsenal kits at the Puma Store on Carnaby Street
sportMassive deal worth £150m over the next five years
Arts and Entertainment
Welsh opera singer Katherine Jenkins
musicHolyrood MPs 'staggered' at lack of Scottish artists performing
Life and Style
beautyBelgian fan lands L'Oreal campaign after being spotted at World Cup
Arts and Entertainment
Currently there is nothing to prevent all-male or all-female couples from competing against mixed sex partners at any of the country’s ballroom dancing events
Potential ban on same-sex partners in ballroom dancing competitions amounts to 'illegal discrimination'
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst Consultant (Financial Services)

£60000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

Systems Administrator - Linux / Unix / Windows / TCP/IP / SAN

£60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider in investment managemen...

AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer

£600 - £700 per day: Harrington Starr: AVS, JVS Openlink Endur Developer JVS, ...

E-Commerce Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Exciting opp...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice