January 21, 2010

Evolution of the Japanese toilet

Alan Macfarland, Emeritus Professor of Anthropological Science and a Life Fellow of King's College, Cambridge, discussed the evolution of the modern Japanese toilet in this brief but fascinating essay.

It's clear that in Japan, a fastidious attention to hygiene is a national trait that goes back centuries. It also makes me wonder how my European ancestors managed to survive (answer: a lot of them didn't).

To be fair, in the mid-19th century, as the populations of Japan's major cities exploded, so did the cholera epidemics, until the sewer systems were modernized (by a British engineer) to handle to flow.

Phonologically speaking, kahaya is pronounced kawaya. According to Daijisen, the original meaning of "river house" (川屋) evolved into "(house) next to the house" (側屋), which is close in meaning to "outhouse."

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