Despite being famous for producing the heated, buttock-massaging, water-spraying robotic toilets of the future, Japan is also home to a surprising number of old-school “washiki” (Japanese style) squat toilets. Especially outside of the city, these toilets can still be found in many homes, public buildings and schools, despite the vast majority of the younger generation positively recoiling whenever they open a stall door to find one of these things waiting to humbly accept their waste.
According to Internet chatter this week, though, there may actually be more benefits to using Japanese-style toilets than simply good posture, with “hygienic”, “time-saving” and “strengthening” just some of the words being used to describe these classic ceramics.
A common complaint about Japanese-style toilets is that, unlike western models where you’re seated the entire time, it’s necessary for the user to squat over them, putting most of their weight on their thighs and calves. This position is, in fact, generally agreed to be much better for our health and makes splash-down far easier since – and you might want to put down the fork if you’re reading this during your lunch break – the anoretical angle is much better when in a squatting position and the rectum (although naturally curved of course) is “straighter”, allowing the browns to slip by unobstructed. Some experts, such as the U.K.’s Denis Burkitt, even believe that defecating in a squatting position helps to prevent colorectal cancer.
Even so, for those not accustomed to this Gollum-esque squatting position while answering the call of nature, it can be nothing short of agony and equivalent to having done a couple of hundred squats or sprinting up a flight of stairs. But surely that could be a good thing?
According to Japan’s own Wikipedia entry on the subject Japanese squat toilets also promote stronger leg muscles and — although it may sadden those who enjoy nothing more than perching on the throne with their iPhone for half an hour at a time — save time, ultimately making us more productive. On top of this they’re also much more hygienic:
“Japanese toilets can be used without actually having to come into physical contact with them. Since you’re not forced to sit on something that was last used by a complete stranger, you also don’t have to endure their remaining [butt cheek] warmth, and come away feeling much cleaner.”
Wise words! With its tradition of drawing a clear line between the inside and out, exhibited even today by the custom of removing shoes when entering a home or even a doctor’s or dental clinic, cleanliness has always been something considered very important in Japan. Until fairly recently, toilets were almost always kept separate from bathing areas, with the two considered to be at completely opposite ends of the spectrum of sanitation, so it perhaps makes sense that traditional squat-style toilets should promote as quick and sanitary use as possible.
▼ Kids’ potties, or omaru, in Japan are often especially awesome and train children to face in the right direction when using a traditional toilet.
“They’re also very easy to clean,” chimes in another Internet user pointing to the further benefits of squat toilets. Certainly, when compared to the enormous bidet-equipped devices that many homes and fancy office buildings now have, washiki toilets are a breeze to keep in a sanitary condition, requiring little more than some bleach and the occasional scrub. No need to worry about getting into those nooks and crannies between the seat and the toilet itself or cleaning chemicals damaging the plastic or electrical elements inside; the job can be done in a matter of seconds.
Although few westerners, or young Japanese for that matter, would rush back to gleefully inform their party that the izakaya pub in which they’re drinking has a washiki toilet, there is clearly plenty of support for the old-school models, and many in Japan are increasingly turning away from costly, high-tech gadgets in favour of a simpler lifestyle. There are even some people out there who have never quite made the leap to a sit-down model, proudly stating that “Unless it’s a washiki, I simply can’t do a number two.” Proof positive that even with all the technology in the world at our fingertips, sometimes you just can’t beat doing things the way nature intended.
So the next time you open a stall door and find one of these peculiar horizontal urinals looking up at you, keep an open mind; not only will you be in and out a heck of a lot faster, you’ll probably have a much easier time of it. Provided, of course, that you get the angle right and keep your pants well out of harm’s way. Oh, and for those of you who are still unsure how to approach these porcelain poopers, remember: always face upstream and have the flush lever in front of you, regardless of whether it’s a number one or two you’re visiting with. At least that way if you lose your balance you’ll have something to grab on to.
Source: NAVER Matome (Japanese)