Guided by Todd & Mie
When foreigners arrive in Japan and choose a long bus tour, the driver may stop along the highway for a toilet break.
Many highways have gorgeous facilities for parking with restaurants and large bathrooms that provide many toilet in private stalls. The women’s have powder rooms with long sized mirrors in which you can check your whole figure, if you like. A feature of thses many private stalls is the electric toilet seat.
Now, Japanese public bathroom facilities are said to be the best in the world, what’s more free of charge.
The first feature of these seats one might notice is that they are heated. But the comfort doesn’t stop there. They are called “washlets” or “shower toilets” for their bidet feature of washing your backside with warm water.
Originally, a prototype “washlets” was imported from America by a Japanese company in the 60’s. They were “Wash-air-toilets”, for hospitals, welfare facilities and retirement homes to help keep patients clean.
The company thought the toilet would hit the bull’s eye because of the cultural connection to cleanliness in Japanese society. They worked on the design for more than 20 years, finding the most difficult challenge was keeping a warm stable water temperature. If the stability failed, worse scenario, a bottom could get a burn. The water’s spray also proved difficult to find the perfect angle to avoid water splashing.
To date, more than 30 million seats have been sold with about 70% of Japanese bathrooms having them. When Madonna visited Japan she was reported to have commented about her desire to return with one to America.
Now in Japan, when someone starts a business like a restaurant, shopping center, stadium, movie complex, even a hospital or any public facility, you must first think of a clean and confortable toilet. Otherwise, your project will fail.
Another successful electric device called “Car navigation system” for civilian use was improved by Japan from an original GPS device that invented for the military in the U.S. In the 1990’s, America’s military expenditure was drastically reduced so they decided to sell the technology to a Japanese company. That company, working with a map company, improved, modified and placed it in most modern cars.
The president of the map company at that time, who was a lefty, was a prescient person who had set up a business for a digital map and started making housing site maps across the nation. They mobilized a total of three hundred thousand people to record, house by house in the 1980’s. The map now shows us not only how to get to the place we want to, but also how long it will take, what course we should choose, whether or not to take highways, how a road is congested and so on.
Ironically, this modern convenience could deprive us of our map reading capabilities or even our natural sense of direction!
One of the most popular Ekiden marathon races, Hakone inter college race
One more popular service in Japan is Takkyubin or door-to-door parcel delivery service. The original idea of Takkyubins dates back to the mid-Edo era around three hundred years ago. A carrier would mainly run deliveries by foot. Very few rode horses to convey mail and small parcels. It was called “Hikyaku” meaning “flying foot”. The grade of service ranged from 3 days to 30 days delivery one way from Edo (Tokyo) to Kyoto. That’s 368 kilo meters or 228.7 miles on a map or 459 kilo or 285.2 miles on the current expressways. Speed depended on who was ordering or how much they were paying. There were many relay stations across the nation, many of which have developed into local towns now.
Takkyubin companies take pride in the trust from their customers. Internet shopping industries depend heavily on this reliable transportation system. You can trace where your parcel is through your PC or mobile phone and you can designate the arrival time within a three-hour-period.
An Ekiden marathon is very popular in Japan and is a long distance relay road race. Ekiden means “a station to station relay race passing a sash of cloth” and originated from Hikyaku, “flying foot”. A variety of Ekiden marathons are held in December and January among high schools and university students and corporate teams. In an Ekiden marathon, distance varies in each respective race. Many excellent athletes have been produced from Ekidens. Japan has two female Olympic gold medalists from marathon races in Sydney 2000 and in Athens 2004 and one man took the bronze medal in Tokyo in 1964.
You might have noticed that, in the world of sports, generally speaking, Japanese women have been outperforming Japanese men.
Some are concerned that the Japanese male could be herbivorous. But that is another cultural story.