Making a permanent impression since 1994
October 17, 2005
-- Travel --
The wonders of Japan
By Teague Neal
Spending two weeks in
Perched in the Pacific more
than 6,400 miles from my home outside
When it comes to technology,
the Japanese are second to none.
Within the walls of a
Japanese household, even something as simple as a toilet has creative and
In my first night in the
land of the rising sun, my host family pointed out to me what the pink button
"This button here is
the anal cleaner," they said with a straight face. I never actually tried
Other buttons triggered
innovations such as a temperature-controlled warmer or heater to get the seat
feeling just right. A regular bidet or a vigorous one are among other
Once you’ve flushed the
toilet and enjoyed some features of the toilet's computer, you grab the
container of soap off the sink that is integrated into the top of the toilet
bowl. Mere seconds following the final flushing noises, a curved tap spews a
steady stream of water into a small hand-washing basin that’s part of the
toilet. In this way, the Japanese use the extra water that we in
Bathing is equally
After enjoying a quick and
delicious noodle bowl, it's time to prepare your bath. But you don’t have to
go to the bathroom to do it – simply go to the wall-mounted computer device
and dial in your desired water depth and temperature.
While the machines are doing
the work, you can continue to relax or work until an automated voice comes
through the speaker telling you that your bath will be ready in five minutes.
When it’s ready, you hike
down to the combination shower and bathroom.
Naturally, the shower has a
digital display with controls for the time, temperature and amount of hot water.
After the shower, you open
the louver slatted tub cover to a perfectly prepared bath and the relaxation
Since you’ve just showered
and shampooed, you won’t need any soap in the tub. Afterward, following
Japanese custom, you’ll leave the bath water in the tub for the whole family
to use when you are finished.
The bathing room doubles as
a laundry room, with a single washer/dryer machine. This is a washer that cleans
the clothes and stops for a couple seconds to transform to a dryer before drying
them. Thus, you can slip into your toasty right-from-the-dryer pajamas after
you’ve finished your nightly bathing.
A bath is a nice way to
relax following your evening meal, which is cooked in a pan on the table in the
one common room in the house.
A large electric circular
pan is placed in the middle of the table, which is about a foot off the floor.
The family sits on cushions around the table.
Everyone cooks their own
food as the meal progresses, tossing enormous shrimp, strips of fresh beef,
chicken and a host of veggies into the pan and flipping it all with long, wide
nine-year-old sister was cooking away. His parents replenished the food supplies
as the cooking continued for about half an hour.
Once the food is prepared,
you have a selection of sauces for dipping. It's an absolute blast! Though the
Japanese rarely drink during meal times, the table always has cups and two
pitchers, one filled with cold Chinese red tea and one with slightly milder,
cold Japanese green tea.
Getting an ice cream in
Visiting the ancient town of
There was green tea, black
tea, asparagus, banana, apple and green mango ice cream. I opted for purple
sweet potato ice cream, which is made from fine potato flakes that are truly
I loved its nutty and smooth
When I later learned that
there are places in
At a picnic one day on my
visit, I gulped down aloe vera juice. Keisuke told me that the same plant that
we North Americans use to heal cuts is also really good for your health.
New in Japanese grocery
stores is the option of having perishables such as meat, whole octopi and squid
showered with dry ice to help keep them cold until you get home.
At crosswalks, a traditional
Japanese folk song that literally means “to go” plays when it’s safe to
A similar tune plays just
before a subway or train leaves, but sometimes there’s no waiting for the tune
– during rush hour, uniformed professional pushers with white gloves shove
riders into the trains.
All this and more is why
people fly across the globe to experience the beauty and excitement of
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