Japanese Conveniences
Yes, I know the title is ambiguous.  This has to do with that email from a friend who was once a crew member of one of my Navy ships.  One of the links led to a web page that extols the virtues of Japanese toilets.

I don’t doubt the virtues of a Japanese toilet.  Just a hole in the floor….. as I remember.  Not much to clean up and your rear end doesn’t touch a seat.  I did spend a week in Japan in 1969.  While I did spend some nights on the airbase, when I got there and when I left, a good part of that time I stayed in a Japanese Inn.  

Funny thing, I don’t remember a thing about the Japanese toilets there.  I guess that’s because I was young and it wasn’t much of an adventure.  I am older now and not as limber as I once was.  It would surely be an adventure at my age ….. and weight to use such a toilet.  If that is the case, then why even write?  Ahhhh….. there is more.

As a few of you know, my first ship was up the Mekong River in Vietnam during the war with the same name.  It was 1969.  It was also a long way from Japan and its infamous, simplistic toilets.

One of the minor details that came up about the head was that one of the toilet seats was broken.  Of course the conversation got around to the question, “How in the world do you break a toilet seat in half?”  A short lived conversation, even in a ship where boredom made us grasp at anything to talk about.  Without any shore leave for a year except a week’s R&R out of the country, our routine was boring, even with the nightly rocket attacks passing overhead while we were anchored in the vicinity of the Army base at Dong Tam.

One night, one of the officers used the forward officers “head”.  That is Navy jargon for “bathroom.”  No, don’t even ask why they call it that.  It is the head towards the front of the ship, in officer’s country, second deck.  Anyway, the head was apparently empty.  I think it was late at night.  When the officer finished his business, washed his hands and started to leave, he heard a noise coming from one of the stalls.

The officer was puzzled because the stalls were open from the floor up to where the sides and door started…. about 12 inches.  In other words, from where he was standing he could see the floor area of all eight or so stalls.  He couldn’t see anyone’s feet.

His curiosity was now aroused.  He went to the entrance door, opened it and let it swing closed while he silently stepped back into the head.  Sure enough, a pair of feet descended to the floor of one of the toilet stalls.

When the toilet stall door opened, the occupant was startled to find another officer standing in front of the stall with a quizzical look on his face.  His face turned beet red with embarrassment, but the story came out.  

It seems he had been stationed in Japan for several years.  He had gotten used to those darned Japanese toilets.  When he was stationed to our ship, with regular toilets, he was set in his ways.  He didn’t like the idea of sitting on toilet seats that had been “used” by others.  Yep…. he stood up on the toilet seat and squatted, just as if it was a Japanese toilet.

I’m sure you must have guessed.  He was the one who broke the toilet seat.  I’m sure he lived through the embarrassment.  After all, I don’t even remember his name.

Tom Sparkman
February 26, 2003