Friday, December 6, 2013

音姫 (オトヒメ, the Sound Princess)

Have you ever felt embarrassed by the natural gaseous and liquid sounds we all make while doing Number 2?  For anyone who has, the public restroom in Japan is the place to be.

Witness the Otohime:


The first time I saw one was in 2001 or 2002, at an Italian restaurant in Ochanomizu.  Back then you had to press a button to make it work.  Its function is to make a bit of noise so that others in the restroom can't hear yours.

Apparently, In the past, people who wanted to cover up their bathroom sounds used to flush and flush as they went.   This would obviously result in a tremendous waste of water.  Enter the otohime (音, or oto, means sound and 姫, hime, is princess, e.g. Mononoke-Hime, the Miyazaki Hayao movie), literally, "sound princess"  (or Princess Sound?), which has been said to save 20 liters per use.  One of my students taught me this term.  I asked why they thought the device included princess in its name, and they said probably to lend it some cuteness.

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