Compared with my previous visit to Japan 12 years ago, the most noticeable change I find today is in the bathroom. The “Incredible Squirting Toilet” has achieved almost total market penetration, and not just in middle-income homes. It even appears in fast-food restaurants and in public facilities in railroad stations.
As you lower yourself to the thermostatically warmed seat, a concealed motor whirs briefly, providing your first clue that you are about to encounter a piece of highly sophisticated technology. The toilet then remains silent and passive until you reach the point where you would normally apply paper. Instead, you hit the spray button. A hidden tube extends itself beneath you, and with the precision of a heat-seeking missile, it directs a spray of warm water that simultaneously tickles, stimulates, and cleans the place that needs it most. While its aim is meticulous, you can adjust its penetration by gently flexing your sphincter muscle. The experience is so unexpectedly and uniquely pleasurable, I found myself tempted to visit the toilet repeatedly just for recreational purposes.
Paper is needed only to mop up the water when the spray jet has done its work, but such is the effectiveness of the washing action, you will find no visible trace of fecal matter on the sheets of tissue, and can don your underwear in the happy knowledge that you have been cleaned by the same impeccable Japanese engineering that brought the world Honda motorcycles, 170-mile-an-hour trains, and robotic talking dogs.
Higher-end versions of the squirting toilet eliminate the need for paper entirely, by allowing the option of warm-air drying. They also provide adjustment of the water-cleaning jet, including a pulsatile flow which I found especially pleasurable. And for those in Western countries who are sufficiently uninhibited to allow themselves the pleasures of using this rectal equivalent of a water-pic, I have good news: The squirting toilet is available as an imported item and can be retrofitted to older bathroom equipment (you simply swap out the seat). Toto, the primary Japanese manufacturer, offers the most basic model under the name Washlet C100, and if you browse online you can find it for around US$500. This has only the most basic features; you can pay more for more advanced models, including one that welcomes you by raising its lid when it sees you approaching.
A note for female readers: The squirting toilet has a second tube which can be deployed by women who wish to cleanse their labial areas. For anatomical reasons, I was unable to test this personally.