The need to utter this question is one of my worst fears in Japan. Why, oh why would I ever say such a thing, you may be wondering. Well, it’s because I live in Japan, the land of high-tech, luxury toilets, and I don’t read Japanese.
You see, not only are the toilets in Japan fancy, but it seems as if no two are the same. If you hit the wrong button, you may get music or water sounds or a warmer toilet seat or a shower. I’m rarely adventurous enough to roll the dice and take the chance that it’ll be the shower.
Not only is there a buffet of buttons, but the buttons change from toilet to toilet. The location of the buttons changes too. It might be on the arm (yes, some toilets here have arms), or the back, or on the wall to the right or to the left of the toilet, or the wall behind the toilet, or it could be one button on the toilet. Really, there seems to be endless possibilities for button choices and locations.
In fact, some toilets in Japan even have a faucet on the back of the toilet so that you can use the water that fills the tank to wash your hands. It’s incredibly environmentally friendly, but I haven’t seen a corresponding soap dispenser, so I don’t normally use it.
On more than one occasion I have stood in the stall for several minutes, looking, searching, trying to read, frenetic for the right button. At the point of complete desperation, I try pulling together my few Japanese words and imaging the conversation. Do I have enough words to make my plea for help? Do I have enough guts to ask someone to help me flush the toilet?
So far, the buttons have made themselves known just before the tears come, but each visit to the Japanese stall brings a new challenge and renewed anxiety.