In the Land of the Rising Sun, there’s always a state-of-the-art place to set your moon.

By James Sturz
January 11, 2018
Courtesy of James Sturz

It’s been a while since I last posted. Rainy season has come to Hawaii. I headed back east for a month, and when I returned the dry grass had turned a dozen shades of green. Around our house, weeds had shot up everywhere—some of them already woody. In a single month, nothingness had transformed into trees. I’ve been yanking and shearing them away remorselessly ever since, already on my second pair of gloves. In Paula’s, secret garden beneath the sprawling Formosan koa tree the orchid blooms are also back.

Courtesy of James Sturz

The pigs and pheasants are bigger, too. It only takes a little water, and then everything grows.

While we built—and as we planned to build—Paula and I used Hawaii as a base for exploring Polynesia, the Pacific, and beyond. One thing we grew surprisingly fond of in Japan was the super-luxurious automated toilet, so it’s what we used in our house in Hawaii. At Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel, where we stayed on our most recent visit, the TOTO bathtubs let you know they’re filled by playing Bach’s cantata “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” when the water level and temperature are just right. (Downstairs, the hotel’s human staff is so focused on cleanliness and order that the doormen proudly change their white gloves to a fresh pair every 30 minutes.) But aside from tubs, the bathroom-products company is better known for its toilets, with some 900 employees in research and development tirelessly devoted to improving the way we flush. As we’ve found in the Land of the Rising Sun, there’s always a state-of-the-art place to set your moon.

So we’ve gone with TOTO’s Neorest 550H Dual Flush in our master bathroom, an “elegant skirted one-piece unit,” as the company’s web site describes it, which warms the seat while the lid opens automatically on approach, spritzes the inside of the illuminated bowl with electrolyzed water to keep things moist, provides a cascade of programmable and directional bidet and air-drying options, and flushes and deodorizes itself once you get up and walk away, employing a proprietary “tornado siphon jet flushing system,” which, harking back to earlier memories, means it gives itself a swirly. Paula wanted a Maserati, and instead we got this. But don’t confuse it with a toilet. As far as TOTO is concerned, the correct term is a “washlet.”

Courtesy of James Sturz

Elsewhere in the house, we used the company’s more traditional-looking units, the Ultramax II 1G Connect+ S350e, which more or less do the same thing, but require manual flushing—which seems like so antiquated an action with all the bending and reaching and possible repetitive-motion stress to the wrist, although it’s a good skill not to forget.

The packaging was especially nice.

WATCH: A Perfect Weekend in Lana'i, Hawai'i

For more on TOTO, as the company keeps its focus on Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics, and all the bathroom use that will mean, CNN has issued this fine report. Do we have a smart house in Hawaii? I suppose we do—but what does it mean when your toilets are smarter than you are? What’s the appropriate forum for discussing that?

Elsewhere on the island, where water is concerned, we’ve been making friends with the local mollusks, including the oysters the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai has been growing and serving and the opihi, a prized limpet that we’ve found ourselves along the coast and then lightly sautéed with garlic and butter.

Courtesy of James Sturz

Of course, it’s not all eating here—there’s lounging on the beach, and cleaning up the coastal waters on outings with Jack’s Diving Locker and Ocean Defenders Alliance—here are some more mollusks on a recovered fluorescent bulb and a frogfish we liberated from plastic debris and gave a new home amid the sargassum weed on a log, while pilot and sperm whales looked on.

Afterwards, all that remains is to come home, ourselves. If you catch the light just right, the bathroom looks like this:

Courtesy of James Sturz