If you live in Japan, or have visited Japan, chances are you’ve run into tap trouble. Is it up for on? Down for on? It’s so hard to get your moves right! In my Sept. 27 column in The Japan Times, I fielded a question from a woman who wants to know why the heck her kitchen tap lifts to start when her bathroom tap works the other way around. For an explanation of the ups and downs of Japanese faucets, please read the column.
I also addressed an oft-heard story that this confusion has something to do with earthquakes. I’ll send you to the paper’s site for that, too, but you might find your ideas a little shaken up. I did promise to blog about energy-saving faucets, and that, I can tell you right here, is very much about earthquakes.
Those of you who were in Japan in 2011, the year of the terrible earthquake and tsunami, will remember the resulting energy crisis. In response, the government challenged industry to find ways to cut back on energy consumption. One target, believe it or not, was home hot-water use. (Japan’s a nation of clean freaks, and it takes energy to heat all the water we use in tidying and bathing!)
Manufacturers responded with a variety of new products, including faucets that cut down on hot-water use, which are called setsu-yu suisen 節湯水栓. Such faucets reduce hot-water use in a variety of ways, including mixing the water with air so it feels like you’re getting more water than you’re actually using, but I’ll focus on a smart little feature that encourage consumers to interrupt the flow when they don’t really need it on. In Japanese, this is expressed as komame ni o-yu o tomeru こまめにお湯をとめる (turn off the hot water frequently). It’s easily done with the faucet below: just tap the tap, and off it goes! (The sound effect in red is “pon!” ポン！)
There’s a version for showers, too. Keep in mind that most showers in Japan are hand-held, and installed in a room that also has a soaking tub.
Many newer shower-heads now come with a one-touch on/off button right on the shower head. No fiddling with the controls; just pop the button while you lather, and again when you’re ready to rinse. You don’t even have to open your eyes. This feature, whether on kitchen taps, shower heads or bathroom taps, is usually called a tacchi suicchi タッチスイッチ(touch switch).
Here’s a video from Toto that shows off the advantages of one of its faucets with a one-touch on/off feature and aerated spray (which they call “air-in shower”). The explanatory text is in Japanese but the pictures make it pretty clear what’s happening: