Friday, October 11, 2013

Coming Clean

It's taken a while to put this post together as usually when I'm using this space, I don't want my camera anywhere near. In any case, today I will be discussing my bathroom! 

While in a previous post I used the term bathroom, this time I literally mean the room with a bath. I've found talking with my non-American friends that the American use of the term, "bathroom" is somewhat uncommon. In other English-speaking countries it appears that, "bathroom" is interpreted literally and is not used to refer to the toilet as in America. 

In any case, before I discuss the actual bathroom I'll start with what I guess you could call the pre-bathroom. It is here that one removes their clothes and leaves their towel before entering the bathroom using the door on the left. This room is also where my host parents do their laundry and perform their morning routine.

The bathroom is actually a prefabricated plastic chamber that is waterproof from top to bottom. When I mentioned to my host mother that in America, the bath, toilet, and sink are often together in an otherwise regular room, she was shocked and couldn't imagine how we dealt with issues like mold. I will say it is somewhat liberating to be able to turn on the shower and not have to worry about where the water falls.

The shower head has two functions, it can be held in the hand or set on an adjustable-height stand to act like a regular shower. All the water is controlled by a faucet near the floor, turning the knob clockwise sends water to the shower head and turning the knob counter-clockwise sends water to a rotating spigot that can be used to fill the bathtub or fill up a bowl for a sponge bath.

The temperature of the water is controlled by the panel on the wall above the tub. Basically you set the temperature you would like and the system keeps the water at that temperature. I recently learned that my host father built the house such that the kitchen and upstairs sinks use the same water heater controlled by this panel so when one is done in the bathroom one is supposed to simply lower the temperature back down to 32C or so. I didn't realize this and on several occasions turned the entire system off meaning that the entire house had no hot water. My host mother was understanding though I was quite embarrassed.

In a traditional Japanese bath, the water would be kept warm by a fire outside connected to the bath by a set of tubes. Such baths were designed such that the act of heating the water actually caused it to circulate through the system without mechanical assistance. The metallic disk inside of the tub emulates this system by circulating the water back through the heater using a pump. This makes it possible to keep the bathwater warm indefinitely allowing multiple family members to use it.

Finally, I was initially taken aback by the fact that there is a large eye-level window in the bathroom. After some investigating I found that between the window and the neighboring house there is only about a 1-foot gap and that space has been partially filled by excess building materials my host father has collected over time. Because of this it is practically impossible to see into the bathroom window from outside.

This bathroom is definitely something I will miss in returning to America.

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