If there is one thing I hate – and believe me, there is way more than one – it’s the airport restroom. Especially when traveling alone and you have no one to watch your bags, it becomes a bit of a circus act in there. Stalls are often way too small, or the door swings shut too close to the toilet so that you have to squeeze yourself around it – difficult if you have a backpack or computer bag, let alone a wheeler carry-on suitcase. Then you’ve also got the gross factor if your clothing brushes the toilet, depending on how diligent and detail-oriented the cleaning staff is. Places like O’Hare have the awesome sliding plastic toilet cover which gives one SOME comfort (unless you start to wonder if it simply goes in one end and unrolls again out the other).
In Asia, many cleaning staff are women and while they may be diligent, I confess that standing at a urinal with someone’s mother twirling a mop around my feet is a little on the awkward side. Really? Can you wait?
But Japan… oh, Japan. Your unusual obsession with toilet comforts! Heated seats. Bidets and blow dryers. I’ve even seen an audio button that plays what sounded like a rain-forest downpour to cover up that embarrassing noise when the ladies tinkle (uni-sex toilet at a bar, I wasn’t being a perv). It may also encourage the shy bladder, I suppose. But I say all this without meaning to complain.
Take for instance the restrooms at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
Look at that space! That’s almost as big as the typical business hotel room! Look at that width! Heck, a fella with a wide stance could even be comfortable here. However, the partitions go all the way to the floor for complete privacy (sorry, Senator Craig) and protection from overeager cleaning mops.
The door FOLDS in, giving you much room to get luggage inside and close the door. A solid double coat hook. Even a wide ledge above the toilet for a small handbag. Disposable ass gaskets (hat tip to Robin Williams). The remote controlled bidet and er, “shower”? Check. With varying force! (Take note of where the stop button is before use.) Blow dryer in the basement? Check. Heated seat, naturally. And a flush button that is not activated by every move you make in the stall, nor is it tucked away behind the upright toilet seat cover.
Here is the flush button at about waist height and easily pressed with an elbow if you don’t care to imagine who’s been touching that or you have that Howard Hughes OCD thing going.
Ever have to change at the airport? I’ve done it many times, peeling off a business suit to change like Clark Kent into Super Comfortable Backpacker Guy. Standing on top of my shoes to avoid the floor, bunching up clothes upwards to make sure pants or shirts don’t touch the toilet (sorry for any unpleasant visualizations there). But check THIS out:
What’s that there folded up against the stall wall? A platform that folds down. Stand on this in your socks to avoid that internationally soiled restroom floor. Genius.
Seriously, I don’t know that anyone has ever given as much attention to toilets and restrooms as the Japanese, but I am most certainly grateful. Can we all adopt these improvements now?