“Constipation is reading two comic books cover to cover.”
This summer children up and down Japan will be trying to master the art of crafting similarly scatological phrasing as Toto’s 6th Toilet Senryu (poem) Competition gets underway. Winners of the competition not only receive a high tech toilet seat, they also get their poetry printed on limited edition bog roll thus reaching a wide audience of captive readers.
The quote above was one of last year’s winners and exemplifies the noble art of the senryu. Senryu, with its traditional 7, 5, 7 meter is similar in structure to haiku, but lighter in style than its more serious cousin, often containing bawdy humor rather than deep observations on nature. The meter rules of Japanese poems are a little different from Western ones: The ‘on’ units don’t equate exactly to a syllable. For example, this is how the poem quoted earlier breaks up into units:
“be.n.pi.de.su (constipation is), 5 on
ma.n.ga.ga.ni.sa.tsu (two manga), 7 on
yo.mi.o.wa.ru (finish reading), 5 on”
Word play in senryu is also common. Take this winning entry from a previous year, which has fun with different meanings of the word kami (紙, paper or 神, god): “I just made it/Buddha is here/but kami is not.”
This year’s competition is very special for Toto as they mark the 30th anniversary of their hugely popular washlet. Visitors to their online gallery can see how far the washlet has come over the years by sliding the cursor over the timeline. These days, toilets in Japan have moved beyond heated seats and bidet sprays to offer a dazzling array of functions, such as automatic sensors that lift the seat as you enter a room and music to mask the sound of those embarrassing toilet-time noises.
The next generation of Toto’s washlets will even be able to talk to you. If you’re interested in experiencing the latest in washlet technology, you can actually operate a prototype of the Neo Test Type-02 toilet, which is installed in the Museum of Science and industry in Chiba, remotely from your computer and see the results over a live feed. The Type-02 can tell your “fartune,” read you the news, weather or stock reports and flatter you if you press the “brown nose button.” For more talking toilets, see Toto’s website and listen as the toilet reads out last year’s winning entries.