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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Chapter 72 - The Water Closet (Bathroom)

September 24th -  1st October 2013

Ok, last chapter I gave fair warning.  This is a bathroom chapter and thus, bathroom humor.  Sorry.

As hinted in chapter 66, the bathroom seemed really minimal to me.  Then I ended up doing some more research and found that in fact this bathroom is fairly common in many kinds of hotels or hostels, ryokan inns etc. in Japan.  It’s pretty traditional although it seems extremely rustic to me.  But then again, I’m American so the idea of a bathroom like this would be pretty traumatizing if I had an urgent need to defecate.  Sort of like the first time you had to do such a thing in the woods whilst camping or something.
Japanese toilet

In any case, since I’ve been in Italy now a long time, I can relate somewhat to the similar experience upon finding my first “turkish” bathroom.  In Italian, it’s called the bathroom “alla Turca”.  Not to be confused with a lovely turkish bath that you may find in a spa or luxury hotel.  I’m purposefully giving you an unpleasant pic here because 9 times out of 10, this is the condition you end up finding such a bathroom.
Italian toilet. Filthy.
For scientific use - the Shelf Toilet
They can be found still in most clubs, bars, and even some restaurants which, by law, are supposed to also offer a normal toilet for the handicapped.  Even so, I have had occasion to be stuck with one of these which proves a challenge given my hovering capabilities are minimal.  Slowly, tho, at least here in in the mid-north of Italy, these are pretty much being phased out in favor of a normal toilets.  Still, the toilets here are very low water which can be disturbing too since we Americans are used to lots of water (to the point of “back splash”).  I think in Europe it all still tends to be low water.  One of the most interesting toilets I came across was in fact the shelf toilets found in Germany and Holland (Amsterdam).  I was traveling again with my family and my sister and we discovered this jewel of a toilet.  Also here, low water yet intriguing use of the shelf I would suspect.  Could it be the most efficient way to check for intestinal vermin? In any case, one has to be sure to close the cover otherwise the rush of water could cause material to be launched onto the bathroom wall (or person using the toilet).
Hence also the european use of ceramic tiles all over the bathroom.  On the walls, floors and round the sanitary services.  It does make for easy and hygienic cleaning (when bars and restaurants feel like doing it). My bathrooms are ceramic tiled.  And the one lovely invention which Americans do not have and are missing out on is the bidet.  Best French invention ever!!  Unfortunately, we do not have that in our Japanese Ryokan.  We barely have a bathroom.

Getting back to our Japanese toilet, I find it interesting to see that after many years, the Japanese are now opting for these mega high-tech toilets.  When I visited Japan in the late 90’s,  I was surprised to find so many buttons and knobs on a toilet.  There are lots of blogs that can relate this experience in detail so I won’t get into it here.  But I find it interesting that we go from something so basic bare bones rustic to something out of Star Trek!  From having no sense of modesty or comfort to having an actual button you can press that will emit sounds to mask the tinkle of your urinating.  Amazing.

So, having decided to build the bathroom the way the kit intended, there were a few changes I had already contemplated on making.  One was to tile the bathroom.  I found some printies and printed the tiles out on glossy paper.  All I had to do was cut to size and glue the pieces onto the walls.  I wanted the bathroom a bit kitchy and for this reason we have two kinds of tiles.  One around the actual toilet and sink (Delft style) and the other for the walls.  I stuck with a kind of 50’s tiling there.

Adding the printie tiles to the backsplash and the toilet base

Adding more Delft to the base and assembling the backsplash.

I also decided to test out some liquid enamel.  I really wanted the sanitary pieces to look like porcelain so I used a few layers of this liquid enamel on those pieces.  They worked out pretty well.  It’s a bit of a pain tho since this product is quite liquidy, takes a while to dry and needs acetone for cleaning up (and still didn’t clean up as well as it should have).

Liquid Enamel

The wash basin before enameling

I then had to join the right hand room to the landing so that I could have a better idea of where to tile the back wall.  That was glued and left overnite.  In the meantime, I checked the kit instructions for the installation and discovered that I needed one piece from a chapter further ahead to install the bathroom.  So, after digging that out and resealing the remaining pieces in their package, I stained it and installed it.  Now I could tile the remaining walls.
Glueing the landing to the right hand room

Tiled and glued in place. 

Tiny wash basin. Was a difficult fit. I had to use some sticky wax just to hold it in place for gluing.

Finished "toilet". Better have strong thigh muscles.

With the installation of the extra wood pieces in the corner, I could no longer actually tile the back wall.  It didn’t make sense with all that wood.  So I just tiled the facing wall.  I used double sided tape this time instead of glue.  The landing is off quite a bit so I had to straighten out the tiles more than match up to the landing edge.  Now, I was ready to test fit the bathroom.

Bathroom finished.
It fit in fine! Except for a few areas that needed sanding to give a tighter seal (once the light goes in, I didn’t want lots of light leaking out) and discovering that I had mis-installed one side, after rectifying the error and re-glueing it was ready to install.  I noticed the bottom edge under the tile was showing white from the wall so I used some fine tipped black marker pens to fill in the area.  That way it doesn’t annoy me when I open the door.

The door to the bathroom.

View inside.  Tiny space.
View from above.

And lastly, I pasted the “how to use” poster on the back of the door.  I had found this on the net and loved it!  Fitting, since I, more than anyone, had no idea how to use this bathroom.

"How to" instructions.
Good to know! I would have sat on it!!

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