Jul 5, 2009

What I Learned About Squatters While Camping in Japan

That title got your attention, didn't it?

Today we're going to talk toilets.
Don't say I didn't warn you.

Here in Japan, they have some incredibly advanced advancements.  Why, just the other day, I heard Dr. Oz (on Oprah) talking about toilets in Japan that can analyze your urine to check for disease or illness.  (I pretty much learn about all cool Japanese things from American media.  Ironic, no?!)   

Yes!  That's right!  An incredibly high-tech toilet!  Like so many of the toilets here that go above and beyond the call of duty by providing not just a place to, e-hem, relieve yourself, but also a warm seat on which to rest your...seat, special potty music to mask any unpleasant sounds coming from...where ever, and best of all, a hot stream of water to clean your...self with.

They are marvels of cleanliness, happiness, goodness, modern technology-ness, and did I mention happiness?!?!

And then we have..."The Squatty Potty"...which is found here just as frequently.  

Many times the public bathroom will offer both options.  Sometimes squatters are the only option.   As they were at our beach side camp site this weekend.  (Which wasn't actually a camp site.  Just a beach with a strip of lawn where we set up 5 or 6 tents.  But more on that later.)

The "Squatty Potty", or "Squatter", is like a tiny Urinal embedded in the ground.  And, as the name implies, it must be squatted over to be used.  (At least to be used effectively.)

Here's what I learned about Squatters while camping:

They do have some advantages!
There are some advantages to Squatters...if you're the one in charge of cleaning them!!!  You see, the whole bathroom becomes one big toilet.  Which makes your job fairly simple.  If someone were to miss the squatter, (easy to do) it doesn't matter.  Because the bathroom floor is lined with drains.  So if you miss the hole in the floor, well, the floor will work just the same.  Basically, the moment you set foot inside, you can feel free to pee.  (freely)  
Because, let's face it: we're striving for efficiency, not accuracy here.  (This is evidently also the motto my sons live by.)  This makes cleaning a breeze.  Simply hose the whole place down.  

After racking my brain for hours, this is all I can come up with in the "advantages" category.

Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages:

For the unskilled in squatting, there are no handles to offer assistance.
Yes, that's right.  You basically have to be in excellent calf-health to use squatters easily.  It also helps to have perfect balance.  Because there is nothing whatsoever to hang on to.  This may pose a challenge for the "less-then-graceful", but I'm sure I wouldn't know anything about that.

You have to pull your pants down...and up...at the same time.  
Although it's important to pull your pants down before "going" you'll also want to pull the bottoms up at the same time.  So as not to cause bunchage which might possibly touch the floor.  (See above mentioned "advantages")  And make sure you situate them at the right height.  Too high, no go.  To low, no bueno.

Cuts down on reading time
Doug wanted this mentioned

The uninitiated child is NOT cooperative
Children not used to squatters may or may not be cooperative when confronted with squatters.  The consequences can be dire.  A visit to the hypno-therapist before camping is advisable.

You are really close to the bathroom floor.
Which we all know is disgusting.


Take your time and try to relax!
Rushed release may result in regrettable splatter.  i.e. pee on your shoes.

Bring your own soap.
They're not even providing a toilet seat.  Why would they provide soap?

Consider bringing your own toilet paper.  
Though I haven't personally seen it, I hear sometimes it isn't provided.

I hope this wealth of information makes your next visit to the Squatters a pleasant one!  Good luck!!!  (You'll need it.)

Any potty experiences you'd like to share???  Do tell!


Anonymous said...

Tis true, although I never analyzed it so thoroughly. When we went to China we were faced with about 85-90% squat toilets. Ugh. And always brought our own toilet paper & soap. These situations make us all the mire appreciative for the 'comforts of home'.
Your pal, kayla

Allison said...

Hilarious!!! You know I have gone 2 years and have managed to NEVER have to use a squatter thus far. You might as well go outside. LOL

randa_joy said...

I used "the squatter" somewhere in Europe, it seems like it was in Italy AND I had to pay for it. Thanks for reminding me of another good reason I heart America. Free public restrooms with sit-able toilets!

Katie said...

I have one more "advantage"...once you get the hang of it, which I have, you feel happy about not touching anything...not sitting on a wet seat etc etc...

But I totally love this post-the two extremes of bathrooms in Japan can pretty much be an analogy for the entire living in Japan experience in my opinion.

Just got back from Indonesia- they have the worst toilets I've seen yet. I will be doing my own blog post in a few days on it acutally. Take your squatty, take away toilet paper (no flushing) and add a water hose.

shauna said...

Once again,you are making me laugh and bringing back many memories from mission days.

My first experience was when I got off the train in my first area. My dutiful new Japanese companion ushered into the bathroom and left me starin at a hole in the floor in my stall (thank goodness the public restrooms are not like the public baths--I was able to enjoy my confusion in privacy). I think she have worried about me 'cause it took me a looooooong time to figure it out and then even longer to get up the nerves to use it.

One final thing--I had one companion who discovered at the END of her mission she had been facing the wrong direction for the last 16 months. But like you said, does it really matter?

I love my American toilet. Thank you for reminding me of that!

JHuffman said...

I live in Colorado and was somewhat homeless for a little while, but a foreign kid that I had befriended offered me an empty room in his house. His family had just recently moved to the United States from Indonesia, I believe and, while living there, I discovered that they would use normal american toilets much like they would use the "squatty potty" (they didnt know better and never closed doors...) So basically they stood on the edge of the toilet bowl and "squatted" from there...how's that for an interesting mix up?

cant wash my hands enuf said...

i've seen squatters in Buenos Aires. NOT A PRETTY SITE. i would not even pass the threshold for fear my shoes were .... well dirty. two years later i still get the creeps thinking about it. but i don't think about it until your story.
eeeeeeech !

pat-myself-on-the-back, doctor Doctor said...

i was not 30 behind in reading your blog. close but not a full honest 30.

i loved the squatters story. hilarious and NASTY.

i loved rule about biting. is that my advice i gave about a year ago and got repemanded for ? love it when truth wins out. use your teeth ! that's what canines are for.

Unknown said...

Emily I am so so glad that the package arrived. I was starting to get worried.

I cannot wait to receive that really long letter and the cd.

Enjoy... and yes, I'm looking forward to getting to know you.

LaLa said...

What would a poor person with a herniated disc do with a squatter??I couldn't use a squatter right now if my life depended on it. Good thing I'm here and not there.

P.S. Hope the party is no fun without me! HUMPH!

Amber Lynae said...

This is funny and sad. I have experienced the squatters in France. I luckily didn't have to deal with getting my daughter to use it. That would have been an uphill battle; With me standing downhill in the carnage. I think I would have been defeated. Your blog is superadoarble and I loved your post on MMB

Lindsay said...

LOL! I remember my first visit to Thailand. At a roadside restaurant I walked into the first stall, backed out thinking they must have removed the toilet for repairs. I was despondent when I checked the next stall and panicked after checking the final stall to find the same dank hole in each with a bucket of water and small cup in the corner. How did the travel guides leave this little kernel of knowledge out!?!

After a week I was a pro at peeing into a hole. At the airport before leaving I used the ladies room one last time. I went to the first stall and wasn't surprised to see the now familiar hollow in the floor. After doing my thing I heard a familiar “FLUSH” in the stall next to me! Turns out the bathroom at the airport was more advanced and had the option of a hole in the floor OR a lovely porcelain fixture. Just my luck I’d go in the first stall.

Lucy said...

My 15 year old daughter made it through almost 3 years in Japan without figuring out squatters. In Bejing, though, we finally came upon a rest stop with no other option. I tried hard to explain but she just couldn't figure out how to do it, and neither could several women in our tour group, so they gathered round the open door of my stall while i dropped trou and demonstrated.

Even that was not as unnerving as the squatter in Seoul which was literally a hole in the floor into a very large space in which i could see light and hear male voices in the distance. Had to use it anyway.


Well let's see...there was the time my 4 year old nephew was visiting us in Italy and I had to take him to the squatty for #2 during dinner...we took a photo (pants on!) to commemorate our hilarious bonding moment! I spent six years in Europe and used more than my share...not fun, and REALLY makes you appreciate a good ole American flusher!