At some point, I was going to write an entry about the fabulously hi-tech nature of Japanese toilets, but I see from Tom's links on plasticbag.org that imomus got there before me; Japanize your ass! has a glorious and detailed history of the various kinds of Japanese sanitary facilities.
I'm also grateful to have a proper name for the electronic, all-singing, all-dancing toilet: the washlet. Not knowing the correct name, I had been referring to it as a 'techno toilet', which had a certain Wallace and Gromit quality about it, but was hardly accurate. Given my well-known adoration of all things electronic and geeky, I think it probably goes without saying that I was in thrall to the washlet. I made it my duty to try out all the buttons in a spirit of pioneering exploration, though there was a certain amount of trepidation until I had worked out what they all did.
The heated washlet seat is particularly welcome for another reason — central heating is very rare in Japan. I find it bizarre that Japan — a country that can organise highly efficient and thorough recycling of waste, and a train system in which trains depart on time to the second — doesn't have widespread central heating. It's especially strange when you think that in the North of Japan, there's snow on the ground for large chunks of the year, and when almost all houses and businesses have very efficient air conditioning for the summer. It doesn't seem to make sense, but then a lot of cultural practices don't make sense when you're on the outside.