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]

You Can Rent a ‘Lisa Frank Flat’ in Los Angeles on Hotels.com

Hotels.com
Hotels.com

If you went to elementary school in the 1980s or 1990s, chances are there was at least one piece of Lisa Frank gear in your classroom. The artist's aesthetic helped define the decades, and wide-eyed, technicolor animals still hold a special place in the hearts of millennials. Now, you can live out your childhood dream of having a room that looks like the inside of your 3rd grade backpack: a penthouse suite inspired by Lisa Frank is now available to book in Los Angeles.

The Lisa Frank Flat, a collaboration between Lisa Frank and Hotels.com, screams nostalgia. Each room pays homage to the settings and characters in the artist's vast catalog. The bathroom is painted to look like an underwater paradise, with shimmering dolphins swimming in a pink and blue sea. The kitchen is stocked with snacks from your childhood—like Gushers, Pop-Tarts, Pixy Stix, and Planters Cheez Balls—and painted in bright, rainbow animal patterns that will reflect how you feel when your sugar rush peaks.

Lisa Frank bathroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank kitchen.
Hotels.com

In the bedroom, the colors are toned down only slightly. A light-up cloud canopy and a rainbow sky mural create a soothing environment for falling asleep. And if seeing Lisa Frank around every corner makes you feel inspired, there's a place for you to get in touch with your inner pop artist. The desk comes supplied with pencils, folders, and a notebook—all branded with Lisa Frank artwork, naturally.

Lisa Frank bedroom.
Hotels.com

Lisa Frank desk.
Hotels.com

Interested in basking in the glow of your childhood hero for a night? Online reservations for the Lisa Frank Flat at Barsala in downtown Los Angeles will be available through Hotels.com starting October 11 and lasting through October 27. You can book your stay for $199 a night—just don't forget to pack your Trapper Keeper.

English Couple Is Growing Chairs, Lamps, and Tables at Their ‘Furniture Farm’ in Derbyshire

Full Grown Ltd.
Full Grown Ltd.

You don't need woodworking skills to craft fine furniture from scratch. As one couple from England proved, all you need is a green thumb. Instead of carving their tables and chairs using lumber, the proprietors of Full Grown farm in Derbyshire sculpt live trees into furniture pieces as they grow, Reuters reports.

Gavin and Alice Munro planted the trees that would become their first furniture materials about a decade ago. By manipulating trees' growth and coercing new shoots to go in different directions, they were able to shape them like sculptures—ones that take years to complete. "It was inspired by seeing an overgrown bonsai tree that looked a little like a throne," the Munros told Mental Floss in an email. They were also inspired by Gavin's experience wearing metal back braces as a child to straighten his curved spine.

"Grown" wood chair.
Full Grown Ltd.

The method has been used to grow chairs, lamps, and tables. The pieces are just as functional as regular furniture, and the unique manufacturing style makes for a beautiful, one-of-kind design. But the main goal of the furniture farm is sustainability. Conventional furniture is often made from wood that's been logged and carved into smaller pieces. This produces a lot of waste and carbon emissions. The Munros' streamlined process aims to be an ultra-efficient alternative.

"Grown" wood lamp.
Full Grown Ltd.

Tree sculpting, or "zen 3D printing" as Gavin described it to Reuters, will likely never replace mass furniture production. Every piece of furniture requires a lot of time and labor to craft. For a chair, expect a six to nine-year growing period and another year for it to dry out. Full Grown's chair commissions are currently booked through 2030, but if you're willing to settle for a ready-for-sale item, the next chairs and lamp are set to be harvested sometime in 2022 or 2023. Just be ready to pay around $12,500 and up to $2800 for a lamp. Table prices vary the most, ranging from $3100 to $15,600. Eventually, the Munros hope to expand their operation and make the products a little more accessible. "Once we can get our Furniture Orchard having regular harvests then we can begin to plan a whole farm and start some larger scale experiments in production and ecosystem design," they said.

You can get a behind-the-scenes look at their process in the video below.

[h/t Reuters]

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