Saturday, December 16, 2006

You don't unnerstan' Japan

I know that many folks say that the Japanese are especially clean. Uniquely clean. The cleanest people in the whole universe. But then I often see guys go to the toilet and leave without washing their hands, or at best a quick 1 second splash of water (and no soap) over them. Today, I was at a rather snobbish area and entered the men's toilet. A guy was in there doing a rather smelly number two. When he left he splashed water over one hand for a half second and exited. Now you see why bowing is preferred to shaking hands here.

I have seen kitchen workers do this. In Sakuragicho's (Yokohama) Washington Hotel building, there is a restaurant named Tsuki. About 3 years ago when I was working at the Berlitz there (which had no toilet) we had to use one of their toilets. A guy dressed in chef's clothes came in, took a leak, did a quick two finger rinse and left. Mmmmmm. Extra flavor with the sushi. Saw the same thing near a unagi (eel) restaurant in Futako Tamagawa's Takashimaya Department store.

In Denenchofu, we have the filthiest McDonald's and Wendy's I have ever seen. Amazingly, the near universally dirty Kentucky Fried Chicken is very clean here. Anyway, I was in Wendy's the other night and decided I had better wash my hands before eating. I went to the men's restroom. No faucet, no basin. Outside the restrooms was a basin for hand-washing. I used it, but the soap dispenser wouldn't work. There was no other place in the building to wash one's hands unless there was a wash basin somehow hidden from view in the small kitchen. Gee, wonder where the staff washed their hands before handing food?

Maybe these things happen because Japan is different. It is so clean, there are no germs---except of course, those on filthy foreigners, but that is to be expected. And since Japan's sh*t doesn't stink, I supposed there is no bacteria to get on one's hands after a crap and a wipe.

Or, since everything in Japan happens as the direct result of tradition and for no other reason, perhaps there is one which is responsible for folks not washing their hands after using the toilet. It couldn't be the same as in other countries, that some folks are lazy, or don't think or care, or are just plain dirty. No! This is Japan! Well, in the not too distant past, farmers here still used nightsoil (human feces) on rice and other crops. (Still was going on post-WW2). Perhaps because of this Japanese tradition, having sh*t covered hands and and eating food contaminated with someone else's feces is no problem. It's uniquely Japan. (It's not uniquely Japanese, but don't worry, that statement is nearly never, ever true.)

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