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"... I like to think about something else when nature calls. It helps make a natural situation much more pleasant for me." This thought caused us to produce a special edition of pictures with titles of deeper meaning for our Bathroom series. Something to think about, to refresh your senses, to leave the corporate restroom with a little smile. The Bathroom series is available black framed numbered and signed by the artist if you click here or on the PayPal button below.

Private Moments
by Mitch Levine

It's been a long winter and I hope you will forgive me for writing about something not so serious. I like to read while going to the restroom. Is this unusual in Japan? I have asked some people I know this question. My mom does, my sister doesn't. My best friend does, his wife doesn't.

For me this is a ritual. I like to think about something else when nature calls. It helps make a natural situation much more pleasant for me. I keep a book by the bathroom door, and when I travel, I usually have something to read. I have even learned a few kanji during this quality time. Unfortunately, I have not really figured out how to do this with a "squat" toilet. In America, I have never seen a squat toilet. Before coming to Japan, I had only seen one once before 10 years ago at a Portuguese military base. Aside from this, in my whole life I have been accustomed to sitting down in a restroom. The restrooms here and an aspect of life that I have still not fully adapted to. I have difficulty imagining it, but I understand many Japanese people actually prefer the squat toilet to the sit down toilet.

Most Japanese carry a hand towel, but in America, most bathrooms have towels or an electric hand dryer. It is not common for people to carry their own towel, and I still usually don't. People have spotted me with wet hands walking out of many restrooms in Japan. I think most people carry their own tissues as well, which is easy in Japan because they are often given away for free. I didn't do this at first, but I learned why this was important when I first came to Japan. I discovered the hard way one time that not all Japanese public restrooms have toilet paper. There I was at the critical moment looking through my tour guide trying to decide what places I would never travel to so I could tear them out of my book for emergency use.

In fact, I was recently having a conversation about bathrooms with some of my colleagues here in Onoe. In the school the restrooms are not heated, and they are Japanese style. I have waited until going home sometimes when the need was not urgent. I have talked with some of my gaikokujin (foreign) friends and learned that this is not an unusual practice. In fact, one of my friends prides himself on the fact he has still never had to use a squat style toilet for the two years he has been in Japan. The new Yakuba (Town Hall) has very nice heated restrooms with heated toilet seats. I am told the women's room has even nicer seas with more features, but I have not seen them. The new yakuba is very close to the school. I recently realized I have more reasons to visit the yakube during the day than I had previously.

Heated seats? More features? Wait! I had never heard of these things in America. We just have simple plastic seats. While I have discovered some of my most difficult restroom moments in Japan, I have also found some of the most luxurious. Japanese restroom technology is the most amazing I have ever seen. Little sinks in the back of toilets, water sprays, warm air blowers, and more. Wow, wonderful! I have looked around, and these seats are not easy to find in America.

Many people ask me what I want to take away from me from my experiences in Japan. I think they are expecting a philosophical answer, but sometimes I grin and say, "A toilet seat!"

Courtesy of Mitch Levine at
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Bathroom Series

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