So, the super high tech Toto toilets are sneaky... it's not always clear how to activate the flush. The ones at the Ghibli museum and our office are particularly mysterious. Not only is the flush activation mechanism physically separated from the toilet, but they've helpfully provided a nice red herring: a button conveniently located next to the other controls (which wash front, wash back, and fluff, style and air-dry your private regions) helpfully labeled "Flushing Sound". There's a little music note symbol on the button itself.
If you press it, desperate as you may be to avoid having to mime a request for help flushing a toilet because you don't speak enough Japanese to cover this kind of emergency, you are rewarded with.... the Sound of Flushing.
It's not even a particularly good sound of flushing. It sounds like what robots might imagine the sound of flushing would be, recorded, and then played back through a tinny speaker somewhere beneath your nethers. It goes on for awhile, and it does not stop when you press the button helpfully labeled "Stop". Although this button does stop the other washlet functions, it does nothing to the Sound of Flushing, which continues wilful and unabated until it reaches the end of the recording with a pseudo-realistic gurgly finish. Unless, of course, in your mortification at having activated it, you pressed the button again, in which case the Sound of Flushing starts over again.
But the Sound of Flushing is merely sound and (a little) fury, signifying nothing. So you may be congratulating yourself at having stopped the noise, but you are still facing an unflushed toilet.
At this point, I'll explain that the actual flush mechanism is an unobtrusive round button on the cubicle wall, with Japanese characters on it and no other indication as to its purpose. Even noticing it is tricky, because it blends in so well with the surroundings. And, also, let's not forget the large helpful button at the Narita airport toilet, labeled "A GUARD RUSHES". Perilous!
But anyhow, let's assume that you figure all this out. You're still wondering, well... why?
I asked Tohru, who is my expert. He gave me a look, like, I can't believe you're asking this totally ridiculous and obvious question. "No, really," I said, "why would you need the Sound of Flushing?"
The purpose of the Sound of Flushing? It masks any indelicate noises you might be subjected to in the washroom, thus preserving both your dignity and the dignity of those around you.
I thought this was totally ridiculous, but actually, five days later, I'm seeing the usefulness. Sometimes you just want a little mystery about your actions.
I was joking about the washlet fluffing and styling your nethers. Some things, you still have to do for yourself...