At the moment the Asuka II is making her way South from Shimizu, a little port with a soccer team and a Ferris wheel, to Kobe, a big port with a Ferris wheel (I'm not sure if they have a soccer team) at a leisurely nine knots. Come to think of it, a lot of Japanese cities have Ferris wheels... I should see how many pictures I have of Ferris wheels... but not now, we've got more important things to discuss.
The Japanese go pee-pee and poo-poo, just like everyone else in the world... but chances are they do it in a way that can be both light years ahead of the way you do it, and cavemanish in comparison. First, let's take a look at what a no-frills Japanese crapper looks like.
This is Japan's traditional, basic tool to take care of your most basic needs. Of course, for us guys going onesies, it's not a big deal, and actually better because you have less chance of water splashing back at you. For the girls, and for anyone having to go number two... well, fortunately I've never been saddled with the task. Essentially, you pop a squat. Notice there are no handlebars to keep you steady. I suppose those who use these toilets on a regular basis have the balance thing down, but you just know at some point in their life they misjudged their own abilities and fell in, or worse... fell during.
Still, even though this toilet is rudimentary, the basin is actually pretty smart. It's hard to see in the picture, but there's a sink built into the top. When you flush, the sink runs, but it drains into the basin; alternatively, when you wash your hands, the water drains elsewhere. This function makes the toilet seem smart in a space saving sort of way, but only halfway makes up for making you precariously hover your ass inches above the floor.
The ironic thing here is while there is nothing available to help you squat, take a look at this decked out urinal.
This particular model is located on the ship, but I've seen the same in a few ports. When I first saw something like this, I didn't know whether I should pee, or swing upside down from my knees. One day I decided to swing upside down from my knees, and got a face full of pee... and now I know better.
So, if the Japanese Potty Pendulum swings one way, it must go an equal distance in the other, right?
Right. This is a typical advanced Japanese john. You can find these in the passenger cabins on the Asuka II, and while they aren't totally decked out, they still are Cadillacs among America's basic Fords and Chevys... or maybe they're Toyotas... no, Lexus... Lexuses... Lexi? Anyway, the manufacturer of your vehicle always includes an owner's manual, so our upscale Toyota toilet shouldn't be any different. Sure enough, under the lid is some helpful advice on how to best enjoy your commode.
Okay, so what I gather here is don't bring your water hose inside and spray your toilet down. Also, don't let your kids climb all over the toilet... that's what the jungle gym urinals are for. Finally, don't treat your toilet as a recliner. Are we all clear? Good, let's move on to the controls.
Yes, controls. These toilets plug into the wall. When you sit down, the toilet senses you (that's one job that's better off for automation) and freshens the water basin, cooling your bee-hind without splashing it. Then, you do what you came to do. Next, turn the dial and pick your poison. In other places I've... gone... there are only pictures, like the one's here. So, picking the huge blue butt I push the button. You hear a buzzing coming from below as the sprayer readies itself into firing position. Once it does, it's actually pretty nice. The water is heated to a comfortable temperature, and may I say that the aim is always dead on... I mean dead... on. The first time I used one, it was a little shocking, then nice, then shocking again because the water wasn't stopping. I panicked for a few moments until I realized the toilet, like my old Sony Walkman, had a stop button. Push stop, and the water stops; the mechanical buzz sounding from below as the toilet holsters its weapon.
Of course, carrying on my stunning car to toilet metaphor, you can actually option out your rig. Some of the more deluxe electronic poopers I've used have had automated lids, heated seats, and a post-business air freshener that activates once your business is concluded. Honestly, there have been days when I knew I was going to be close to one of the fully decked out models, and I purposely held it until I got there. Like I said in a previous blog, it really does make the act of going poopsies a regal event.
BUT... it's a funny thing, that pendulum. While the toilets I just mentioned are in fact public, they are usually found in upscale hotels and restaurants. What if you're walking down the street when mother nature calls? Well, there are options, like this one:
Funny thing, I only discovered how visible I was when I was inside. Pedestrians walk by, and that window is eye level. Maybe people have had conversations, long lost friends reunite, maybe two hopeful lovers finding romance... you know like say Fred is inside, and Bill walks by:
Bill: Well, hey Fred! I haven't seen you in some time!
Fred: Bill, how the hell are ya?
Bill: (walking up to, and leaning against, the window) Fine, fine. How's the wife and kids?
Fred: Just super Fred... just super.
And so on and so forth.
Finally, on the subject of bathrooms, I did find another seemingly very public bathroom in a little town called Tanegashima.
Look at that... they done made themselves a Hello Kitty welcome statue out of floaty buoy things! And if Hello Kitty could turn around, she'd see you standing there doing your business. Hello Kitty... hello.
Okay, let's move on from bathrooms to a subject that I only became aware of a couple days ago. Take a look at the following picture.
See anything interesting? Go ahead, take your time... I'll wait. When you think you know the answer, watch the video below:
Yeah, I just busted a little Street Fighter II on y’all… it’s how I roll. And, in case you are wondering, yes, there are stop lights for the cars and walk indicators for the pedestrians. This wasn't an isolated incident, either. Now that my eyes are open, I am seeing these guys everywhere. Yesterday I was walking along a sidewalk, and they had half of it (the side closest to the building, not the street) dug up to work on some pipes. It was fenced off pretty good, but just in case Stupid Sam comes ambling up the sidewalk with his head buried in his Sudoku book, there's a uniformed city employee with a nice blue jacket, white gloves, and a red flag to help Sam through to safety... poor, stupid Sam.
So, since then, I've taken me some pictures of Japanese crossing guards. Here's my current favorite.
Seriously Japan? Really? No wonder the Yen is falling.
But hey, that reminds me of a joke... Why did the Japanese guy cross the road? Give up? To ride the damn slide in Sakaiminato! That's right, friends, part three of my series of videos displaying both my abundance of free time, and my relation to stupid Sudoku playing Sam (second cousins) is right below.
Okay, so maybe that isn't the real answer to the joke. No, actually, the reason why the Japanese guy crossed the road is to get to the Pachinko Parlour! Right now I don't know why I haven't got a picture of the outside of one of these things, but they are either a windowless bank type building, or a windowless glowing neon bastard of a thing sitting right across the street from its own second cousin. Now then, let's get one thing straight: gambling in Japan is ILLEGAL. But pachinko isn't gambling, no sir! You pay money, get balls. The idea is to win more balls. Take all the balls you when to the front, and trade them in for fabulous prizes! Then you march outside with your fabulous prize and sell it back at the pachinko parlour's own pawn shop... for money. Sneaky sneaky, Japan... but how do you win those coveted little balls?
Needless to say, I haven't won at pachinko. There are also slot machines that you play in the same way. Money buys credit, and the goal is to build it. While each pachinko parlour has its various little aesthetic differences, they are always big buildings containing rows and rows of pachinko and slot machines, the air is thick with smoke, and it is LOUD. I mean factory loud. Take one machine and let it drop a hundred metal balls against its metal pegs, and you might be a little annoyed, but you'll live. Now drop a thousand of those machines into one room and let them belch out their cacophonous metal symphony and see how long it takes for your ears to explode.
So, if pachinko has found its way around Japan's no gambling stance, what else can you get away with?
Off track betting, apparently. Now then, turn your speakers up and listen to that picture above. Yeah, listen to it. Hear that? That's exactly what the room sounded like. I could have studied for my final exams in there, it was so deathly quiet, and quite the difference from the afore mentioned pachinko parlours. So yeah, gambling is illegal in Japan, except for pachinko, slot machines, horse racing... I'll let you know when I see my first cock fight.
In other news, I've kind of given up the ghost on shrines, having seen my fair share, and yours, over the past months. However, I did see one that was worth taking a picture of:
Remember that Golden Book story about the little house, and the city grew around it? No? Oh well, in any case, I find it amusing that there's a place for sanctuary located in front of a multilevel parking structure, and across the street from a gigantic mall.
Here's a store that's apparently also a paradox. “Children Will.” Umm, okay, children will what? Buy five pairs of socks for 1,050 yen? No, that can't be it... okay, I give up... seriously... Children Will what? This is driving me crazy!
Oh hey, I finally made it into the bowels of the ship to see the engine room. I tell ya, the noise in a pachinko parlour doesn't even come close. Wearing big ol' ear phones and safety glasses I ventured into decks 2 and 1 to get a look. Loud to be sure, but clean as well. Oh, and hot... wow... hot. Here's a quick video:
Finally, here's one of my favorite foods in Japan, and it ain't got no fish or rice in it!
This here is some ice cream they call “monaka.” Just take a look at that beautiful golden beast. It's soft serve contained in a ice cream cone type shell (that, sadly, is probably made from rice). You take a bite, and you get a perfect mix of cone and soft serve! And not just one bite, but every bite! And since the thing is fully contained, it never gets drippy! And sometimes they put chocolate or jelly inside!AWESOME! This is my new vice... and you know what, I think I am goin' to put this blog down and eat me one. Yeah, I keep a stock in my little freezer.
Keep on Livin' The Dream,
(In my Halloween getup. This year I went as “The Guy Who Ate Too Much Japanese Food.” Yeah, those are real chopsticks... and yeah, Asuka II's official Halloween party was November 7th.)
Now that you've learned about how I pee and poo, maybe you should take a gander at how I bathe! All of the juicy details can be gleaned over there at “Kon'nichiwa Asuka II Part Two – The Pros and Cons of Bathing.”