Olympic Toilets: Japan sets Gold Standard, China a distant Number 2?

The Japanese toilet is a thing of wonder. An array of buttons along the side of a typical commode allows you to spray and dry your rear, or front. Others activate oscillation or pulsation, and raise or lower the intensity of the gush. Some models feature a little deodorising puff of air freshener. The function that automatically puts the lids or seat covers down is referred to as the ‘marriage saver’. And then there is the heated toilet seat, which rivals Kyoto in full cherry blossom bloom as a highlight of a trip to Japan.
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A song for the sakura

Kyoto in full sakura-bloom is a sight to make the most confirmed teetotaller drunk, and I’m partial to a cup of sake at the best of times. There, under the cover of the floral parasol of a cherry blossom, rested a heron, its grey-and-white silhouette easily mistaken for an ink wash painting.
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Racism and the reality in Japan

In central Tokyo’s bustling neighbourhoods, it’s common to find signs outside establishments, from barber shops to taverns, stating: “Foreigners Welcome”. That these are necessary only highlights how there are places in Japan — guest houses, massage parlours, restaurants — where foreigners are unwelcome.
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The importance of being kirei

It would serve India well to look to Japan for more than bullet trains and nuclear technology. For a truly SwachhBharat there is no better role model.
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Notes from Tokyo

There are four different Japanese onomatopoeia to describe rainfall. When the rain falls ‘shito shito’ it is constant and enveloping. When it rains ‘zaa zaa’ it’s a sudden downpour, typhoon-strong. At the very outset of a shower, it rains ‘potsu-potsu’ which describes a few early drops and a darkening sky. At this stage it can also be ‘para para’, a bit random as though someone were spraying occasional moisture on plants out of a watering can.
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Japan’s reborn ceramics welding past to present.

A kintsugi-repaired artifact is what it is because of -- not in spite of -- its fissures. And it is this that takes the art beyond the technicalities of ceramic repair, lending it the metaphorical power to describe the human condition. We have all been broken at some point. And the essence of who we are is not located in some flawless image we might present, but along the fault-lines of our biographies.
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Strange Stones by Peter Hessler

THE CHINESE LANGUAGE has a way of transforming the familiar into the off-kilter. A location like Wyoming, for example, mutates into Wai Er Ming. The line between the uncommon and the mundane is easily breached when languages, cultures, and peoples collide. And it is these transgressions that tie together the wide-ranging chapters of Strange Stones:…
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