When Kimberly Woods, a rowing athlete from the United Kingdom, heard the request to “tell me you’re in Japan without telling me you’re in Japan,” a common joke on social media these days, she had no doubts.
She recorded a video of her sitting on the toilet in Olympic Village at the Tokyo Games, pressing the buttons that make the toilet work. Posted on tik tok.
“I’m trying to figure out how pigeons work,” Brazilian Ane Marcelle, who competed in shooting at the Olympics, admitted after her first day in the country.
The operation of the device can confuse any foreigner who just wants to clean after performing the function for which the toilet was created. It can contain warnings with incomprehensible images, messages only in Japanese, and above all buttons. More buttons than a video game console.
“It’s complicated, isn’t it? You need a class to understand how it is,” Lucas Ferten, surprised, paddled.
Ski athletes from Brazil made a live broadcast on Instagram playing in the Olympic Village pools and pressing buttons to find out what happened.
Modernity is not only in luxury hotel rooms. They are found in train and subway stations, Olympic arenas and athletes’ bedrooms. In some places there is also a warning, with illustrations: the user must sit on the toilet, without climbing on it and squatting.
A valid warning in Japan, where toilets on the floor, which are used in a squatting position, are also common.
The idea of manufacturers to simplify everything with pictures, and not just the Japanese interpretation, does not work for all visitors. A survey with foreign tourists showed that 30% of them could not cope with the toilet, not even with numbers.
To make it easier, some bathrooms are equipped with sensors. When the user wakes up, the unloading begins. Others make it possible to regulate the water pressure.
The numbers emerged after an attempt in 2019 to unite companies that make private companies. That year, Japan hosted the Rugby World Cup.
Eight icons are designed to make life easier for tourists. The idea was to show how to clean (strong and weak), open and close the lid, activate the water flow to clean private parts from the back or front of those sitting, dry them and turn off the controls.
It is not uncommon, even in public places, for the seat to be heated, which provides great comfort, especially in winter.
Before that, each manufacturer had its own symbols or words to describe the functions of each button, inherited from the time washers and dryers began to be sold.
The toilet can be an expensive part of the home. Toto, one of the country’s major manufacturers, sells the piece for up to $15,000 (about R$80,000).
There is also a particularly convenient function of public restrooms, when a person does not want the neighbors to hear the annoying sounds of the call of nature. One button starts with a constant noise of running water, like a flow, to drown out everything else.
Concern about the toilet arouses the curiosity of foreigners, but the Japanese attach importance to bathroom visits and their consequences.
In the city of Koto, on the outskirts of Tokyo, the Unko Museum was established in 2019. A space for defecation, a Portuguese word for unko. The seats were the subject of different arts, colors and shapes. The fair was temporary and should have closed in June, but it became so popular that it was extended until September of that year. When it finally finished, it was online.
In 2020, 39-year-old former soccer player Keita Suzuki stalked investors to create a company to research intestinal bacteria using human feces. Within a few days, he got the money he needed.
In an interview with the Mainch, he defined feces as “more valuable than diamonds.”
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