Better Sit Down for This: Japan Wants to Modernize Its Squat Toilets for the Tokyo Olympics

Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP/Getty Images
Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP/Getty Images

Culture shock abounds in every foreign country, but few experiences can be as off-putting to an international tourist as walking into a bathroom and encountering a toilet you don't entirely know how to use. Perhaps that's why, in advance of the influx of tourists headed to Japan for the 2020 Summer Olympics, the country is looking to modernize its traditional squat toilets. According to Lonely Planet, the Japanese tourist ministry is trying to encourage municipalities to update their public restrooms with the Western-style toilets that visitors might be more accustomed to.

Though Japan is known for its elaborate, high-tech toilets with built-in bidets, seat heaters, and other perks, many of its public bathrooms have more simple accommodations. According to the country's tourist bureau, out of the 4000 public toilets near Japan's major tourist hot spots, around 42 percent are of the squatting variety rather than the kind with a raised bowl and seat. Now, squat toilets aren't just holes in the ground—they're usually made of the same materials most sitting toilets are and have flushing mechanisms. Except with a squat toilet, the flat ceramic pan is placed at ground level so you can crouch over it to do your business.

To make international visitors who are particular about their toilets more comfortable as they tour Japan, the Japan Tourism Agency has started offering subsidies for local governments that want to renovate their public restrooms. These grants are also available to private businesses and councils, according to Lonely Planet. The money can be used to either add more Western-style toilets or update existing models. (We can only hope some will take the opportunity to buy the kind that plays music.)

It's a bit of a shame that the Japanese government is so invested in getting rid of the country's squat toilets, because squatting is probably better for your health, at least when it comes to hemorrhoids. But at least it will be a welcome change for people with bad knees.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

Hong Kong's Peculiar Architecture Can Be Explained by Feng Shui

iStock
iStock

Most people are familiar with feng shui—the ancient Chinese art of arranging one's environment to maximize good energy—as it applies to interior design. But you don't need to walk into a building to see feng shui at work in Hong Kong: It's baked into the skyline.

This video from Vox examines how feng shui has shaped the design of Hong Kong's skyscrapers. Some of the most extreme examples are dragon gates: large holes cut out of the center of buildings. The idea is that dragons, which are said to live in the mountains behind the city, will be able to fly through the openings and into the water. If their passage is blocked, bad luck will befall any buildings in their way.

Some superstitious design features are a little more subtle. In the lobby of the HSBC building, the escalators are positioned at a strange angle to fend off the bad energy flowing into the space. When Hong Kong Disneyland hired a feng shui consultant (a real and lucrative job), they were told to shift the entrance 12 degrees to keep chi from flowing out.

But not every architect in Hong Kong takes feng shui into account. The Bank of China Tower is infamous for its sharp angles, which feng shui experts claim damages the positive energy around it. Anything bad that happens to the surrounding businesses is immediately blamed on the tower, and the neighboring HSBC building even installed cranes that are meant to combat any bad luck it radiates.

You can watch the full story below.

[h/t Vox]

How Makeup Artists Transformed Heath Ledger Into The Joker in 'The Dark Knight'

Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Heath Ledger gets most of the credit for reinventing The Joker with his performance in the 2008 film The Dark Knight. But creating a look for the character that diverged from the comic books was a collaborative process, and makeup artist John Caglione Jr. played an essential role.

In an interview with IGN, Caglione reflected on the makeup he did for The Dark Knight that earned him an Academy Award nomination. Unlike his work on movies like Dick Tracy (1990) and Chaplin (1992), precision wasn't the goal in this case. Instead, he wanted to give The Joker an organic appearance that matched director Christopher Nolan's realistic take on Gotham City and a crazed style that reflected the character's unpredictable nature.

"What would it be if this guy slept in his makeup?" he said in the interview. "If he didn't spruce up his makeup for two weeks? You think of a clown's makeup and for the most part they're pretty detailed with sharp lines, but this had to be the opposite of that."

Caglione worked with Ledger to scrunch and contort his face as he applied the makeup—an old trick borrowed from theater. This method resulted in lines and creases in the paint that made it look like the character had been wearing his makeup for days.

The makeup artist also drew inspiration from classic art and cinema when crafting the character. At the start of the design process, Nolan sent Caglione a book of abstract Francis Bacon portraits for him to reference. During the interrogation scene, The Joker's dark eye makeup is smudged above his eyebrows, a nod to Eric Campbell who played the villain in many Charlie Chaplin films.

You can watch the full interview below.

[h/t IGN]

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