TOKYO — This promises to be the strangest diary entry I'll write during three weeks in Tokyo. Though maybe I shouldn't assume that, given how strange these Olympics are likely to be.
I want to talk about toilets. Specifically, Japanese toilets. For reasons I don't fully understand, Japan seems driven to perfect the most humble of all household fixtures, to make the loo worthy of the Louvre. To a non-aficionado, it's both fascinating and puzzling.
My introduction to Japan's high-tech toilets came in 1998, when I covered the Winter Olympics in Nagano. Two decades later, they're still Ferraris compared to the porcelain Fords we have in America. The one in my hotel room is a pretty basic model, with a heated seat and a multi-function bidet. Even so, it's complicated enough to require an instruction manual posted on the wall. (Two of the functions are described as, "Washes your behind'' and "Stops washing your behind.'')
But the ones in the Main Press Center? Whoa. They need to be seen to be believed. (Yes, I took pictures of a public toilet. Don't judge me.)
There's the multifunction bidet with adjustable water pressure. The heated seat. The power deodorizer. On the wall, there's a motion-activated device that plays the sound of rushing water and chirping birds when you sit down.
There's also a button on the instrument panel with a musical note. I was afraid to push it. For all I know, it plays the William Tell Overture.
Of course, not everyone is comfortable with technology, so the bathrooms in the Main Press Center have options. The bank of stalls on the opposite side of the room is equipped with traditional squat toilets. There's something for everybody in this country!