Games of thrones

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - SUSAN KURO­SAWA

Who knew you could get quite so at­tached to a func­tional item of the usu­ally un­men­tion­able kind. The Toto Wash­let toi­let, cre­ated in 1980 and with many en­hance­ments since, is a fix­ture in many a ho­tel bath­room across Ja­pan and once you’ve sat upon the warmed seat of such a throne, as I did across a week’s hol­i­day last month, any­thing else seems a very poor sub­sti­tute.

The duck­bill-like seat opens as you ap­proach, in a sort of salute, and po­litely closes af­ter you are done, with the sem­blance of a bow. Then it dis­creetly flushes it­self with a mur­mur­ing cas­cade, like the most po­lite of lit­tle wa­ter­falls. The con­trol panel in­vites hot-air dry­ing, os­cil­la­tion, warm wash bidet, “odour mask­ing” pu­rifi­ca­tion and a few other squig­gly sym­bols that sug­gest the Toto could pop up slices of toast or play the ac­cor­dion, if that should be your de­sire. Cer­tainly it has no need to pass you loo pa­per af­ter all those tar­geted sprays and rushes of warm air.

But it’s no longer nec­es­sary to visit Ja­pan to avail one­self of such su­pe­rior com­fort and class as the Toto is quite the ac­ces­sory in chic cap­i­tals and, in­creas­ingly, Aus­tralia, with top-of-the-range mod­els cost­ing a packet. A writer for The Times, Robert Cramp­ton, re­cently re­counted his ex­pe­ri­ence test­ing one at Lon­don lux­ury bath­room re­tailer CP Hart. It’s not some­thing one tends to do here — you know, rock up to Har­vey Nor­man and ask to try all the trap­pings on sale in the open-plan bath­room sec­tion. But, as Cramp­ton re­ports, his trial was in a locked com­part­ment, which is what one would ex­pect be­fore shelling out for a pre­mium loo de­scribed by the CP Hart sales­man as the lava­to­rial equiv­a­lent of a Fer­rari.

I have en­coun­tered Toto toots in Ma­cau and Hong Kong and on board the Di­a­mond Princess cruise ship, which sails Ja­pan’s east coast in sum­mer. In Bali, a Toto I tried had been adopted for use in trop­i­cal climes and whooshed ice-cold wa­ter, which came as a shock. Once, con­fined to my ho­tel room in Viet­nam with food poi­son­ing and a rag­ing fever, I imag­ined Toto was talk­ing to me. As its lid raised it­self on each ap­proach, the stran­gled squeak sounded like “Hello!”. Af­ter four days, we were hav­ing lim­ited but wel­come con­ver­sa­tions and its pres­ence was a com­fort as I cursed the ex­is­tence of shell­fish.

Bath­rooms are im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tions when you travel. I have risked kid­ney fail­ure in ru­ral China rather than use a pub­lic con­ve­nience. Ditto on air­craft on overnight flights when queues are long and hy­giene is ques­tion­able. I am cheered to see that Ja­pan Air­lines is fea­tur­ing the Toto Wash­let “elec­tronic toi­let with wa­ter­jet func­tion” in all cab­ins on many of its Boe­ing 787-8 ser­vices, which seems a civilised move.

Who among us still laughs at the process of hand­ing out chilled or warmed tow­els, rolled like de­vo­tional of­fer­ings, to cleanse our hands be­fore eat­ing. That’s a Ja­panese cus­tom, too, as are face­masks for those with colds and germs, which would be a boost when fly­ing. Ex­cept on my Ja­pan Air­lines flight from Sydney to Tokyo last year, when the cabin at­ten­dant came around with a tray of same, the bloke next to me lifted up the plas­tic packet and swiftly put it back. “No thanks, love, I know you Ja­panese like to keep clean and all that but I don’t need a shower cap just now.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.