On the latest edition of Japan's most popular music show, a young woman got up with her guitar in front of a nationwide audience and sang a song about toilets. It lasted for eight minutes.
Far from being aghast, the audience was moved. Kana Uemura's rendition of her hit "Toire no Kamisama" ("The Goddess in the Toilet") was a highlight of NHK TV's "Kohaku Uta Gassen," a New Year's Eve music special that has been on the air for 60 years.
The song, originally nearly 10 minutes long, is about Uemura's love for her late grandmother, who would encourage her while she was a child to clean the toilet by telling her that if she did, the Toilet Goddess would be pleased and turn her into a beautiful woman.
Released last year, it proved a runaway success, picking up two Japan Record Awards and inspiring two books and a TV drama based on Uemura's story. It's no wonder that Uemura's concerts are now sponsored by Inax, a major Japanese toilet manufacturer.
The company's passion for dazzlingly clean toilets was seen last year when it exhibited a gold-plated commode at the Shanghai World Expo. The blinged-out Regio has neat features like an odor-killing ion spray, remote control, relaxing music, and automatic bum-cleansing functions. It's priced at $40,000.
They're trying to be environmentally friendly, too. Some of the latest models work on as little as 1 gallon per flush, reflecting the industry's drive to save water resources.
Japan's love of improving on existing products can partly account for its super-loos. However, deeper cultural aspects associated with purity and cleanliness also come into play. It's interesting to note that the word "kirei" means both "beautiful" and "clean."
Inspired by this love for loos, we've put together a little slideshow from a recent trip to Japan. May it inspire you when you're on the throne.