The Japanese Sound Princess
By Yumi Nakata
I have lived in America for over ten years and there is still one thing that bothers me about living here. It’s something that I have to deal with everyday and it’s something that I much prefer to do in Japan, and that is to use a public restroom.
Maybe it’s because of my upbringing but myself and many other women in Japan are embarrassed by the thought of other women hearing us pee. I know it’s silly and of of course everybody pees, but I just don’t want to be heard when I am doing my business!
To cover the sound of bodily functions, many women in Japan will continuously flush the toilet while using them, wasting a large amount of water. Even a special education campaign by the Japanese government did not stop women from constantly flushing the toilet so Japanese toilet maker Toto invented the Sound Princess.
The Sound Princess is a small electronic device that when activated creates a loud flushing sound similar to a toilet being flushed. Some of the newer models even have a timer for how long you think you will need to use it and you can also adjust the volume.
I shared the story of the Japanese Sound Princess with my American coworkers and they were very fascinated by it. They were impressed by Japanese attention to a small but delicate issue. Some of my American friends thought it was silly and their response is just to say “who cares if other’s hear you”, but this is the opposite of Japanese thinking. In everything we do we always have to consider if it will make the other people around us uncomfortable or not.
I guess I am much more “Americanized” now because I no longer flush water excessively when I use public restrooms. However the one thing I’m still not comfortable with is other women talking to me while I’m peeing! To me, this is very bizarre and really crosses my comfort zone. Perhaps in America we need a Sound Princess that displays a do not disturb sign on the outside of the stall door.