sub specie aeternitatis

Why American Bathrooms are Poorly Designed (especially compared to the Japanese)

October 26, 2005

I live in a decent size two bedroom apartment. It’s not the most exciting design, and only having windows on one side of the apartment is a drag. But I really have nothing to complain about. Nothing, that is, except for the bathroom.

First of all, the bathroom is entirely too small compared to the overall size of the apartment. My wife and I really can’t both be in there in the mornings to get our daily routine finished, and having a large litter box for our kitties doesn’t help. My biggest complaint, however, is not one unique to my bathroom, it is one I have had in every single bathroom I have ever had. The place in which I deficate is literally 8 inches away from the place I bathe myself. Other bathrooms may have the shittin’ spot a little further away from the showerin’ spot, but they are still in the same room, and most bathrooms are not overly spacious. (in fact, they are usually the opposite, thrown in, it seems, as an afterthought). Having grown up with this style of bathroom I never gave it much thought. My bathroom was like this, and so was every single other bathroom I ever used in a home. It wasn’t until I visited Japan with my wife that I realized how unsanitary our bathroom design really is.

There is no Japanese equivelant to the English word for ‘bathroom’. This is because they do not have bathrooms like we picture them in the U.S. ‘Furoba’ denotes the bathing room, in which you typically have a bathtub and shower. The shower is for cleaning yourself and the tub is for soaking. Which, btw, is incredbly relaxing, and I could actually fit my ENTIRE BODY in the bathtub. Try doing that with a typical American bathtub. I couldn’t even walk through doorways without ducking at my in-law’s house (i’m 6,1) but I could soak my entire body in the water in their bathtub. ‘Otearai’ is the word for the actual toilet room, which, again, at my in-law’s is a room about the size of a small walk-in closet with a toilet in it. That’s it. A toilet. But when you think about it, it really makes a lot more sense than the American bathroom. In Japan, you have a room which serves to only cleanse your body, and another room in which to deposit waste. Compare this to my bathroom, where I deposit my discarded foodstuffs not more than 8 inches way from where I clean myself.

Of course, I haven’t visited every bathroom in Japan, and I’m sure there are probably exceptions. But if as many Japanese have seperate rooms for cleaning and pooping as we have single rooms for pissing and bathing, then I imagine it is almost always this way. And though I would never have given it much thought before I actually experienced it, once I did, my bathroom at home just seems so. . icky. So the next time you jump in the shower, look and see just how close you are cleaning yourself to the spot you probably recently took a nice, big dump. Hard to feel really clean, isn’t it?