One thing most foreigners are surprised to see when they come to Japan is men urinating in public. Taxi drivers, salarymen and just plain drunks can be seen standing against a wall, a hedge or over a grid in public streets any time of day or night, peeing. I call it the Grand Pee.
On the island where I live, men are constantly peeing off the piers as well as off fishing boats in the port. When your house is on the port like mine is, this gives a new meaning to the idea of a picture window. Every Thanksgiving, my dinner guests are entertained by these men outside my living room window peeing, oblivious to the foreign crowd amassed just 10 meters away.
Indeed, it seems like Japan is obsessed with peeing. Even Western-style toilets come with instructions on the lids. What were they thinking — people might jump in? Perhaps the instructions are there because Japanese have always had an aversion — and rightly so — to putting their naked butt down on the same place someone else already has sat on. Therefore, I think we should get rid of the ugly word “butt” altogether and just call it the “upper hamstrings.” The Japanese have only warmed to the Western style toilet recently, with the advent of heated toilet seats.
Apparently, Japanese people start preparing for the Grand Pee at a young age. One day on the bullet train, I noticed the woman across the aisle reading to her son. But she was reading no ordinary children’s book — The cover of the book, called “Shikkokko,” had a boy holding his penis and peeing large raindrops onto the ground. I’m presuming it was a potty training book. Now you know why it’s called potty training — it’s done on the train. Not only that, but the book even had the boy peeing from a train onto the ground outside, peeing into a drain and various other public places. Makes you wonder what the book for girls is like.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a new product for women that allow them to use a paper or plastic extension to direct the stream of pee away from their bodies. Women seemed to feel liberated by these new gadgets: “Now women can pee just like men!” they said. Hmm, I’ve never had the desire to pee like a man. Until recently, that is.
I received some samples of such a product from a company called “My Sweet Pee.” I decided to try it while on a boat, since there are times at sea when it is too rough to stay atop a boat toilet anyway. Some boats even have a “pee bottle,” a special plastic bottle with a large mouth and a handle made specifically for this purpose. You’d think hospitals would have caught on to the pee bottle by now rather than making you carry around those humiliating little flimsy paper cups with your urine sample inside.
So, there I was standing on the edge of the boat, the gadget in place, aiming into the sea when EUREKA! I finally understood why men pee in public: because they CAN! I had achieved the Grand Pee!
And it was a good thing I had it pretty well perfected by the time I found myself, a couple of weeks later, trying to squat over a Japanese-style toilet with a sprained ankle. With “My Sweet Pee,” I could just stand on one leg, stork-style, and aim. Not only that, but I no longer had to crawl on my hands and knees down the stairs to get to the toilet from my bedroom — I could just pee out the second-floor window.
I’m not going to tell you whether I actually did this or not, but I assure you, no one was looking.
Unless, that is, I was oblivious to a Japanese crowd amassed just 10 meters away.