A Chinese couple was recently caught stealing a toilet seat from a hotel in Japan. Others spend billions of dollars on purchasing them. A survey done by a Japanese Broadcasting Station revealed it’s not the Shinkansen, Sakura, Ramen, Samurai, Onsen, Capsule hotel, Fake food, 100 Yen shop or even Sushi, which thrills the tourists most. They are all unique to Japan but the number one answer is the TOILET. If you have never been to Japan you would be wondering why a Japanese toilet is so fascinating to Tourists.
The reason is simple – Japan made poop action cool. The act of excretion is largely the same across the world. We either sit on an elevated throne or squat above a hole. We either use a toilet paper or use water. But in Japan, a wonder seat called the bidet toilet seat has transformed the mundane act of excretion into a technologically enhanced sensorial pleasure.
A bidet toilet seat or simply put a multifunctional toilet seat was invented in America but has been perfected in Japan. Commonly referred as a Washlet, it can do wonders – open the toilet lid automatically, play music, deodorise, sterilise, wash the exact spot you want with the exact water pressure and temperature you like, blow dry, massage and automatically flush among a lot of other exciting features. The standout feature for me was the heated seat. Imagine putting your warm butt on a warm seat and not on an iceberg seat that gives you a jolting chill shock!
But this invention didn’t come out of thin air. A company called TOTO monitored hundreds of people to see the sitting position, how they use the toilet seat, what is the temperature they feel comfortable and so on. TOTO's hard work in the toilet got the cash registers ringing. Today 70% of the Japanese have a washlet vs. 30% having a dishwasher. Clearly washing bottoms is more important to Japanese than washing kitchenware! I too would have done the same if I were living here.
If Japanese can think of giving special treatment to washing bottoms how can the rest of our body be treated any less? I am sure some Japanese guy in ancient times might have visited heaven to come up with an idea of Onsen. Imagine looking at an endless turquoise blue lake bejeweled with islets dressed in bright autumn leaves. You are enjoying the view not from a living room but from an outdoor bath, soaked in miraculous hot spring water while snowflakes are falling on your head. Sounds dreamy, right? Well this dream does come true in Japan. This is experience talking 🙂
I was hesitant to try this magic therapy of healing plus rejuvenation plus pleasure for the first time but once I tried I couldn’t stop myself from enjoying it everyday. Hot spring culture is not new to the world. Almost every country has it. But the Onsen experience is unique because you have to follow public bath etiquette and have to be completely naked in front of others. Shocked? You do feel hesitant and nervous for the first time but trust me it’s like making love. Once you do it for the first time you can’t stop yourself from surrendering to the pleasure. Everyday I would walk for miles, get tired and end my day enjoying Onsen therapy for hours. Nirvana!
Though I visited a dozen of onsens and each was unique in itself but the Noboribetsu Onsen stood out for me. It is Japan’s leading onsen village and is known as “the department store of hot springs” because nine different kind of hot springs well up here. It is a one street village with hot spring hotels on both sides. If you visit Noboribetsu, definitely experience the onsen at Daiichi Takimotokan Hotel, which has 20 different hot spring baths located both indoor and outdoor with amazing view of the the Hell Valley.
Once you come out of the Onsen you feel refreshed and warm. Even an insomniac would sleep like a baby after the onsen experience. I know because I am one.
Related: Do read 25 compelling reasons to visit Nozawa Onsen
So do you think the reason to visit Japan for its toilet and bath culture is valid enough or do I need to tell you more unique things about Japan?
Do keep a tab on this space to know more interesting things about my favourite country in the world – Japan.