Mulhall column: Man who catch fly with chopstick… |

Mulhall column: Man who catch fly with chopstick…

My son and his girlfriend recently vacationed in Tokyo. On their return, my son declared, “There’s a glimmering jewel of Japanese culture America should adopt.”

“Oh boy,” I thought, strapping in for a grandiose Gen Z take on the dismal state of America.

Even as I braced for some hefty proposition about government, climate, or maybe even nuclear power, I realized the discourtesy of disarming his premise before actually hearing it. So, I quickly asked myself, which Japanese developments have improved the lot of human existence the world over?

Several came to mind, including the microprocessor, fiber optics and the Toyota Camry.

The more I thought about it the longer the list grew, and soon I had grown genuinely curious to know what my son found so great.

“Japanese toilets are awesome,” he finally began. “They wash your backside.”

“You mean, they have bidets?”

“Not bidets. You just push a button and a wand comes out and spritzes you clean right where you sit. It’s all built in.”

He paused, perhaps waiting for approval.

“They play sounds, too,” he continued. “You know, to mask your ‘noises.’”

“What kinds of sounds,” I asked.

“Well, there’s a jungle track with bongo drums and screeching monkeys that does a fantastic job.”

As I contemplated what a blessing this would be to my wife’s ears, I couldn’t help but wonder what might go wrong with a wand that spray-washes your nether region.

“Doesn’t it hose down the old wedding tackle?”

“Not at all. It has two spray settings that are anatomically tailored and remarkably accurate. Toilet paper is strictly for dabbing off excess moisture.”

“It’s Japan,” I said. “How’d you pick the right squirt if you don’t know Kanji?”

“The control panel has gender-specific Emojis,” he explained. “It’s really quite obvious.”

I envisioned this pair of Emojis, waving from the cab of a speeding locomotive as it smashes into a mountain of post-modernist non-binary pronouns.

“That might not go over too well here in America anymore,” I said.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” he said, “there could be a real market for it. I mean, when did Glenwood Springs get its first toilet? Less than 150 years ago? If you think about it, American toilet technology hasn’t really progressed much beyond the outhouse.”

“That’s not completely accurate, son,” I said. “America has applied a good bit of intellectual firepower to toilets — even in the time I’ve been alive.”

“Oh yea? Like what?”

“Well, when I was a kid, American toilets flushed a good three gallons of water. As you might imagine, they could move some mass. Then, a few years before you were born, Congress passed the Energy Policy Act, which mandated among other things that all new toilets get the job done on a mere 1.6 gallons per flush. Some toilets now work on as little as 1 gallon.”


“Yep. It was an interesting time of change in America, too. While bowl manufacturers ran ads demonstrating how many golf balls their water efficient toilets could swallow, plunger sales skyrocketed. To help the cause, a rock star named Sheryl Crow advised Americans to adopt a one-toilet-paper-square per restroom visit policy.”

“Well, that could be a problem.”

“Not really,” I said. “No one ever tried her advice more than once.”

“No, I mean Japanese toilets could violate the Energy Policy Act.”

And with those words I saw the entrepreneurial zeal in my son’s eyes flicker and trail off like a wisp of sandalwood incense.

After a long, pensive pause, he spoke up again.

“Too bad, you know? Japanese toilets might improve American hygiene.”

I shrugged, for there really wasn’t anything else to say, and after another short silence, my son took the conversation elsewhere.

Later that day, as I reflected on my son’s disappointment, I thought I heard the voice of Pat Morita whisper, “Man who catch fly with chopstick probably use American toilet.”

Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at

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