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On toilets, TOTO and irony

TOTO toilet

The latest JIN Newsletter discusses the high-tech toilets made by Japanese companies like TOTO. All fine and good, except for one comment stumbling into culturology:

It is ironic that Japan, that imported the very concept of sit-down toilets from the West, is now at the center of cutting edge lavatory technology.

How is this "ironic"? This is an example of the core culturology error, that of viewing humanity through the silly filter of "countries". Toilets aren't made by countries, they're made by people. As items of culture, they – like all items of culture – belong not to countries but to people. A hypothetical engineer in Tokyo, who's been using toilets for, say, 40 years and designing them for 20, is not one whit less connected to "toilet culture" than a counterpart engineer in, say, New York. That the Japanese engineer is designing sit-down toilets is utterly normal; it's not strange, surprising, or ironic in any way whatsoever. 

Even if we want to claim the modern sit-down toilet as "Western" (whatever the heck that means), we have to note that it's regarded as foremost a British invention. Does this mean that all non-British "Western" toilet makers are joined with Japan as indulgers in irony?

Wait, it goes back much further than that! Household flush toilets apparently existed before 2000 BC among the South Asian Harappan civilization. Should we claim that anyone today making a flush toilet – even in "the West" – is doing so ironically? (Unless the maker lives in one of the arbitrarily-drawn political entities sitting atop Harappan lands, i.e., modern India or Pakistan; then irony apparently has to be cancelled, right?)

I'll never, ever understand culturology. 


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