Waste Not, Want Not

It’s hard to imagine us Americans – fat, lazy, energy-hogging, wasteful Americans – responding in the same way as the Japanese have to a significant reduction in their capacity to generate electricity.

And the Japanese are clearly adept at making the obvious and correct decisions as to what they can do without – and what they can’t.

Sakuko Saeki, 75, said she had not only switched off but also unplugged her household appliances. She barely turned on the air-conditioning, instead using a fan in her living room. But there was one appliance she could not give up after all: an automatic toilet, called a washlet, the kind that flushes by itself, raises and lowers the lid on its own, and never ceases to amaze foreigners visiting Japan for the first time.

“I’d turned off my washlet,” Ms. Saeki said, “but I stopped doing that.”

You can take my Washlet when you pry it from my cold dead cheeks!

And what’s with the NYT not even mentioning the primary and most delightful function of the Washlet? It washes your ass (and your hoo-haw, if you’ve got one  of those) with a refreshing and invigorating stream of warm water – and it is the crowning achievement of civilization. Talk about burying the lede…

from NY Times

Japan Wrap-up

Well, as one might imagine, I view my trip to Japan in November through a somewhat different lens, what with being unceremoniously dumped by my now-ex-partner-of-nine-years less than two weeks after arriving back home (not to mention mere days after we bought tickets to see Bette Midler in Las Vegas together later in January…  But I digress…)

Despite this, I remain completely fascinated by Japan and hope to return soon – perhaps even later this year, if I can swing it yen-wise.  My general take on the country is that it is, in some ways, almost hyper-Western – like NYC on speed and steroids… Yet it remains uniquely (and in my view delightfully) Japanese.  I think part of what made me feel such an affinity for the country and its people is the outward-facing nature of the culture – cities like Tokyo and Osaka (where I only got to spend one day, sadly) are larger and more densely packed than it is even possible to describe or anticipate…  And yet they run like well-oiled machines…  Streets are literally teeming with thousands of people – but everyone is on the same page, realizing that in order for this to work, everyone needs to be focused on what’s going on around them…  Paying attention to where one is walking, yielding the right of way, not stumbling aimlessly or reeling from side-to-side or lumbering along three-abreast…  Everyone just gets it…  In other words, the complete opposite of the frequently-annoying c0untry of my birth…  People in Japan are courteous and helpful and generous…

The trains and subways appear to be an impenetrable maze – but in reality, they are easier to use than ass-licking SF Muni, with it’s one sad and unreliable metro route down Market St.  To get around in Tokyo, you buy an RFID card which you load up with cash…  Just tap it as you enter and exit the station’s turnstile and the correct fare is subtracted.  It’s a thing of beauty.  Not to mention that all signs and announcements are in both Japanese and English, making getting around for gaijin like myself a piece of cake.  For example, on many of the trains in Tokyo, there’s an LCD mounted above each door.  The display cycles between a map of the train’s route and the next stop (in both languages, natch). Upon arriving in the station, the monitor displays a rendering of the train – highlighting the specific car you’re in and juxtaposing it against a diagram of the station in which you’ve arrived – indicating where the various exits and transfer points are located in relation to your particular car.  Seriously, it’s almost better than the flying cars we’re all supposed to have had by now…  Oh, and the trains are all spotless – like “eat off the floor” spotless…  No one yaks on their cellphones…  And they run on time – save for the occasional person throwing themselves in front of a train to commit suicide…  OK, apparently it’s not all that occasional – but still…  There’s always an alternate route…

Oh, and the guys are pretty g.d. gorgeous…  Girls, too, but what with me being a raging homosexual and all, I tended to notice the boys more…  It’d certainly be interesting to return to this country as a single man…

And then, of course, there are the toilet seats…  The beautiful, fabulous toilet seats…  A luxurious stream of warm water, cleansing and coddling one’s butthole as gently or vigorously as one likes (the pressure is adjustable from just a refreshing spritz to a total power wash).  No more endless-wipes, skidmarks, dingleberries, chafing or sky-high bills for TP.  And the really fancy ones include a warm air dryer and a speaker which plays the sounds of crashing waves – providing both a relaxing atmosphere as well as disguising any unpleasant sounds that may accompany the task at hand…  I’m not lying when I say that I’m seriously considering hiring an electrician to put an electrical outlet (grounded, of course) near enough to my toilet to get one of these at home…  Using an old-school toilet seat feels barbaric – just one step above an outhouse and a Sears catalog…

Anyhow, here are some random pictures from my last few days in Japan, spent in Kyoto and Osaka…  Hope I’ll be back there sooner rather than later…  And if you haven’t read my previous posts and care to do so (i.e. if you are excruciatingly bored or a masochist), visit my previous incarnation of this blog...  Just remember to skip over the parts where I write about my wonderful and loving partner…  since it turns out he’s none of those…  Not that I’m bitter or anything…