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Japanese robo-toilet manufacturers announce standardized icons

Japanese robo-toilet manufacturers announce standardized icons

One area where Japan has embraced tech is in its toilets.  Japanese washlets (or “robo-toilets” as I like to call them), have all kinds of things such as automated motorized lids, heated seats, self cleaning bidet sprays with adjustable temperature, angle, and strength, warm air dryers, automatic air fresheners, multi-strength flush, and remote controls.  Taking a dump in Japan is a pleasure, as long as your not using a squatter toilet (see below).

Japanese toilet icons

This can be a bit mystifying to foreigners who aren’t used to it, so the Japan Restroom Industry Association (日本レストルーム工業会) has come up with a standardized set of icons for the functions of toilets.  The association consists of major manufacturers such as Toto and Panasonic (yes, Panasonic – they make LOTS of things in Japan.)

… the Japan Restroom Industry Association has come up with a standardized set of icons for the functions of toilets.

The Association Chief Kitamura said “We want to make operation of the equipment easy to understand since it would be regrettable if a foreigner missed a chance to experience the washlet.  Furthermore we want to promote our business around the world.”

Part of the push for this is Japan’s desire to become more friendly to foreign visitors ahead of the 2020 Olympics which are being held in Tokyo.

Below is a photo I took of a washlet that I used a number of times at work and its controls.  The box with a speaker plays a recorded sound of water running when when you wave your hand in front of it so people can’t hear you doing your business.  The controls to the right are for the toilet’s functions.  You can set seat temperature, water temperature, water spray strength, angle, warm air, timer, and the red button on the top-left is stop.  It’s also outfited with an infrared sensor and will flush itself when you move away from it.  (Click for larger version)

Japanese washlet and controls

Japanese squatter toiletIn contrast to the very nice-to-use washlets, traditional Japanese squatter toilets are quite unpleasant to use, especially for full size westerners.  Squatting for more than a minute makes the legs start to ache and keeping balance while you reach for toilet paper and wipe is an acquired skill.  These also don’t keep a large quantity of water in the bottom so the warm smell of anything put into it quickly rises full force to your nose.

Homes and apartments for the most part have western style toilets with many people installing washlets.  Newer stores and restaurants often have western style toilets with older stores, convenience stores, and schools having squatters with a western style toilet or a washlet in the “universal” (family or handicap accessible) restroom.

The photo to the right was taken in a convenience store’s restroom.  I think it might have been a ローソン (Lawson).

A Japanese washlet toilet with control arm
A Japanese washlet toilet with control arm from a cafe I used to frequent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Little White Cloud Over Aso – William Milberry

Little White Cloud Over Aso – William Milberry

A little white cloud hovers over the volcanic landscape of Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan.

William Milberry

Landscapes from Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture Japan (熊本県の阿蘇山の風景)

Landscapes from Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture Japan (熊本県の阿蘇山の風景)

Mt. Aso in Kumamoto Prefecture, Japan, is one of the most beautiful places William Milberry has ever been to.  I’ve been there four times, two of which on scooter, and the landscape awed me each time.  It is one of the largest volcanic caldera in the world.  In ancient times a massive volcano erupted there causing the entire surrounding area to sink.  The land is twisted and rippled with lots of natural countryside.  Only soft-looking, short shrubs and grasses grown on some of the volcanic hills due to the nutrient poor soil which is mostly volcanic ash.  If you ever visit Japan’s Kyushu region, Aso should definitely be put on your list of places to go.

Photographing landscapes is a challenge for me because it’s tough to capture the awe that amazing places inspire and their grand scales in a single image, especially with a DSLR.  Landscapes demand a much larger imaging surface such as medium or large format.  Landscapes also demand a very careful, technical, methodical approach.  I’m very capable of this and engaged in such work a lot in the past, but in recent years I’ve been finding my inspiration in a more Japanese style wabisabi aesthetic which is a very different mindset.

Kome Zuka (lit. ‘Rice Mound’), is a volcanic cone found in the Aso caldera – William MilberryAso, Japan by William Milberry

Mt. Aso, Japan by William Milberry

Centuries of erosion cause deep grooves in the volcanic hillsMt. Aso, Japan by William Milberry

Mt. Aso, Japan by William Milberry

Sparse vegetation on the rocky, volcanic, landscapeMt. Aso, Japan by William Milberry

The sulfurous, boiling, active crater “Nakadake”Mt. Aso Nakadake crater, Kumamoto, Japan by William Milberry

Sunset on Kome ZukaMt. Aso, Japan by William Milberry

忘れられた思い出 (Forgotten Memories)

忘れられた思い出 (Forgotten Memories)

A while ago William Milberry went to a flea market in the Hakozaki district of Fukuoka city.  Like all flea markets the places was full of old and interesting things from the past.  I found an old roll of Fuji 35mm color film in a box of junk.  It wasn’t in a canister and was fully rewound, so it seemed as if it had been used.

I couldn’t resist the curiosity and struck up a conversation with the old man running selling the stuff.
William Milberry:  「この古いフィルムはどんな写真が入っているかな。。。」 (I wonder what kind of photos are on this film?…)
old Japanese man:  「さあ、分からん。」  (I don’t really know.)William Milberry:  「気になるから、百円はどう?」  (I’m curious, how about 100 yen?)
old Japanese man:  「(笑)いいよ。」  ((laughing) Sure. )

I took the film home and decided to develop it as black and white in HC110 – a developer which is pretty decent at cross-processing as well as working on really old or damaged film.  The film itself was out of control curly, it had obviously been wound up inside the 35mm canister for years if not decades.  It came out of the developer almost jet black.  I was able to scan two images off of it …

Forgotten Memories 01 (found film) - by William Milberry
Forgotten Memories 01 (found film) – by William Milberry

Forgotten Memories 02 (found film) - by William Milberry

Forgotten Memories 02 (found film) – by William Milberry

These photos are very intriguing because they offer a little window into a past, forgotten time.  I’m very much a follower of the wabisabi aesthetic and accept and enjoy the deterioration in these photos because it was imparted by time.  It invites me to imagine the film’s history and journey from some Japanese person’s camera, to the flea market, and now around the world to my home in America.

Fukuoka Sunset

Fukuoka Sunset

I went to Fukuoka to see a friend who was returning to the U.S. the next day off. Before meeting him I was walking around a bit and there was a beautiful, orange, sunset. I only had my little point-n-shoot camera, but I used it’s manual controls to capture it as best I could.

Fukuoka Sunset Streetlight by William Milberry
Fukuoka Sunset Streetlight by William Milberry
Fukuoka Sunset Fisherman by William Milberry
Fukuoka Sunset Fisherman by William Milberry

 

南無妙法蓮華經

南無妙法蓮華經

I’ve always been a fan of Buddhist art.  I would often go on long scooter rides through the countryside and every time I saw a temple I’d stop to explore and photograph it.

(c)2013 - William Milberry

The Temple Gate

The Temple Gate

To the southwest of the town I lived in there was a Buddhist temple that always caught my attention when I passed it.  The side of the road dropped off steeply and about 2 stories down was the temple with a cemetery next to it.  The day I took this photo I stopped by with one of my vintage cameras (I can’t recall which one, it might have been my Super Ricohflex).  While walking around the temple grounds, an old Japanese lady saw me.  I politely asked her if it was OK for me to be there and shoot photos?  Rather than asking me what country I was from as so many from my rural area impulsively did, the old lady smiled at me and started telling me about the history of the temple.

According to her the temple burnt down a long time ago and was rebuilt.  The gate was the only original part that survived.  She suggested that I take a picture of the gate, which turned out to make a nice photo:

The Temple Gate - William Milberry
The Temple Gate – William Milberry