Some might call this fascination with Japanese toilets unhealthy...

Okay, I know what you're all waiting for... more observations on the toilets here in Japan. Well, I would never want to disappoint.

I can't quite believe it took me this long to figure out why the bathrooms at school smell like a hotplate... it's all the heated toilet seats! All those toilets constantly staying warm have got to produce a high energy bill - no wonder they're so conscientious about recycling here. Also, for those of you who were wondering, they're not hardwired. Every stall has to have an outlet, or a cord going to a stall that does.

Maybe it's the pleasantness of sitting down on a seat that is prewarmed (and not by someone else's butt) or perhaps it's the high-tech control panels that accompany them, but for some reason it seems like these toilets are somehow more sanitary than your ordinary American public bathroom. (I can give you whole slews of reasons why this is neither likely nor possible). They also seem to be more polite than American toilets, the type of receptacle that looks up at you (as it's lid automatically opens) and says "I welcome your waste."

Why wouldn't we put more thought into an appliance that we all use multiple times a day? We have fancy refridgerators that can tell us the weather or that I-94 is conjested. We think nothing of the fact that we carry around what amounts to tiny computers that can call up other people and talk to them out of thin air. Why not the toilet?

The one item that reminds us that we are indeed in a place of (ahem) business and not the space shuttle is the slippers that are used only (and I mean only) in the toilet room. What good is taking off your shoes so as not to track outside dirt into their house if you're just going to track icky bathroom germs everywhere on your house slippers? (This leads into another interesting point about the inside/outside shoes... Mrs. Ishii has an upstairs porch for hanging laundry right outside my window. She keeps a pair of slippers just for that porch on the top step leading out the window and I saw her nearly have a major mishap backing out the window in her effort to avoid stepping with her porch slippers on her immaculate floor. It may be very American of me, but I would have said, "screw the floor, I can mop later!" and ensured solid footing, but what do I know.)

We must seem quite backward and barbaric in America with our 20th century toilets. I wonder if Japanese tourists take pictures of our loos to prove their point to the people back home? Do they pity those among them who have not invested in a hiney warmer of their very own? Whichever side of the ocean you're on, I do think there's peace of mind in knowing, however, that your toilet works even if your electricity doesn't.