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The User Interface

A piece of technology that many people comment on after a trip to Japan is the combination toilet/bidet, and I guess I’m no different. The photo above shows the control panel at my hotel: the silver button the right is the flush valve and all the other buttons refer to the bidet action. The controls are real, too: unlike some plumbing fixtures I’ve encountered, none of the buttons is a placebo meant to give you the illusion of control over an unchangeable setting.

Personally, I find the controls too vague, in the same way that shower controls are inevitably too vague. Unless it’s a shower that you’ve used before, how do you know how far to turn the knob to get the correct temperature? How do you know how to get the type of spray (hard needle versus softer, for example) without trying it out? As annoying as this can be when using the shower in a hotel, you can usually stand out of the way of the water while experimenting. There is no way when using the bidet in a hotel while to be standing or sitting out of the way. And real-time experiments with spray strength and temperature seem to be playing with fire, so to speak.

I don’t see an easy way to fix this. If the spray strength and temperature were given in objective units (psi or kPa, and degrees F or C) you could learn your favorite settings, but that assumes that all toilets would be calibrated the same, which seems unlikely.