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Amparo Bertram

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06:46 pm: The giving and receiving of food...and toilet talk
I brought my cupcakes to work today, nearly three dozen, and they pretty much all vanished. (There were only two left by the time I went home at 5.)

However, I found waiting for me upon my desk *another* bulging sack of vegetables from the superintendent. (BTW, I did send him a New Year's postcard, though I had to send it to his work address because that's all I had.) This time it contained another enormous head of lettuce, *two* daikon radishes as long as my forearm, and some miscellaneous potatoes, plus what I think are lemons.

It turned out that I did, in fact, have one class today. It seems I was misled by the "test" label on the schedule, because only some of the students had tests, while the rest had afternoon classes as usual. That was okay, though, because we wound up watching a video for most of the class period.

Part of the video was about helping the wives of military men transferred to a military base here. They would answer the women's questions about living in Japan. First of all, let me explain that most Japanese keep a special set of slippers in the bathroom. You are supposed to wear these slippers while you are in the bathroom (and here I use the word "bathroom" in the sense of "half bath," because in most cases it is really just a closet with a toilet in it), and then take them off when you leave. The toilet slippers are never to be taken out of the bathroom, because it is considered horribly unclean. The Japanese have a *huge* issue with the uncleanliness of the ground.

Next, I will explain that Japanese toilet tanks are topped with faucets that the water runs through before it drops into the tank to fill it. (The picture is of my own toilet tank.) This is a space-saving device originally designed, presumably, so that you wouldn't need a separate sink to wash your hands. Here are the questions that the women asked, along with the answers...see if you're as squicked as I am...

Question 1: Can you wash your hands in the faucet on the toilet tank?
Answer: Yes, you can, it is clean water.

Question 2: Can you use soap?
Answer: You shouldn't use soap, because it will accumulate in the tank.

...This sums up the bizarre Japanese outlook on hygiene. Wearing the same footwear in the bathroom as in the rest of the house: serious health hazard. Using the bathroom and then only running your hands under water with no soap: highly recommended.

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