Have You Tried A Japanese Toilet Yet?

When people refer to "the moments that define us," they are often talking about how we behave in trying situations, how we respond in an emergency or react to a tragedy. But, the other day at dinner, I had a moment that defined me. It involved little more than going to use the bathroom.

I was eating at Takashi, the hot DIY Japanese grill restaurant in the West Village, with a friend who had recently spent several weeks in Japan. A post-meal bathroom visit turned into a mini adventure when I discovered that the restaurant's facilities were equipped with a Washlet, the fancy Japanese toilet manufactured by Toto. The lid lifts by itself when you approach it. On the wall next to it is a control panel that allows you to access all the functions, including "rear cleansing" and "front cleansing." Naturally, I tested these out. When I returned to my seat to rave about my bathroom exploits — and explain a slightly prolonged absence — my friend was shocked. Two weeks in Japan, where she'd had the opportunity to use a number of Toto toilets, and she never once pressed a single button on the robot toilet. I guess that makes me something of a thrill-seeker.

If you have never sat on a Toto Washlet, you are indeed missing out. A number of restaurants in New York City have them, including Inakaya, Sakagura and Robata Ya. Using one goes something like this: the bowl greets you, as I said, with an automatically rising lid. On cooler days, you can adjust the temperature of the seat. Once you're done, well, going, press the front or rear cleansing button and a wand materializes to spray warm, aerated water onto the designated area. But this is no ordinary bidet action. You can choose to have the spray oscillate or pulsate, determining the pressure and position of the spray. No wonder that girl a few tables over made so many trips to the ladies' room over the course of her meal.

At the end of your personalized, ahem, experience, you can opt to have your nether regions dried with hot air. This friendly function allows Toto to claim that its Washlets are, in fact, good for the environment and, thus, mankind because they don't require the use of toilet paper. I must agree on their making the planet a better place – if only because they are sure to plaster a smile on the face of anyone who takes advantage of the full breadth of their functionality. I left the bathroom feeling refreshed and pampered.

Bidets may have gone the way of the dinosaur and for good reason (who wants to crouch over cold porcelain and splash water into hard-to-reach places?). But the Washlet is like a robo-butler (butt-ler? Sorry...) for your bottom half.

Ok, time for toilet talk. Which Japanese restaurants in your town have robot toilets?