Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tale of two Tokyos - Domestic Robots and Permaculture bathrooms.

Roving, roving.
I'm now staying in Central Tokyo, at my usual home with the Ota family.

Robot and charcoal-fired tea ceremony brazier

This morning I reached for the broom, I got a surprise. Professor Ota came running out "No No!"
He bent down, fiddled with something on the floor, and out it sprang - the floor-sweeping robot.

I'm not a squealy girl, but this was festive, and a squeal was the natural response to having a robot scampering around. I'm living in the miracle-world future. The Jetson's cartoons I watched when tiny are now my life.

We sat and enjoyed our whisked macha green tea, with Chestnut sweets. It it bounced around irrepressibly, gobbling dust and fallen petals, then wiggling into its dock when it decided its task was complete.

Moss-eating bathroom snail

Here is a solar-powered, silent version, spotted the other week on a visit to my friend Phil Cashman's place, in Zushi, Tokyo's outskirts.
Its a particularly well-designed snail, cleaning the bathroom slowly but steadily.

Phil made his bathroom himself, from an old Miso barrel, and other reclaimed timber.
To reach it you cross a bridge, the lively stream below flows from the greywater-reclaiming system he is constructing. Unwanted nutrients are removed automatically by useful micro-organisms and plants. No recharging, all on site, and again, silent. Oh, and free.

Wooden Tub

He's become so skilled at recruiting mirco-help, he put together this daisy-fresh compost toilet.

And while he was at it, he put in an outdoor shower, probably with water caught from the roof and warmed by the sun....
Its a Toilet Tower, actually, to make sure there's room for everything. Instead of flushing, our contributions are followed by a cup full of sawdust, to get the carbon/nitrogen balance just right, heat-treating the mix below. There are two old bathtubs, the second one full of crumbly humus, happy earthworms.
The toilet tower and other buildings are veiled by this Egyptian bean vine, which Phil said just thrived over the hot summer holidays, with no watering. It scrambles up the sunniest walls, just where its needed, a self-installing, self-directing awning. Solar powered.

But wait, it does more.
This bean employs microbes, right at its roots. It trades them sugars, in return for converting air-nitrogen into usable nitrogen for itself and its neighbors in the soil, making it a rich community down there. Its beans are also good for people, making them happy at dinnertime. And its strikingly beautiful.

Phil Cashman

Robust, pro-active, productive, and multi-skilled. And gorgeous. A real treasure.

My friend YumiBear babysits Phill Cashman's daughters.


www said...

Wow and wow! To the robot and the outdoor bathroom. We hope to go to Japan early next year. Is the robot readily available? -- Bom @

Cecilia Macaulay (Tess) said...

Sure, anyone can buy one. They cost around $800.

Enjoy your preparations for Tokyo : )

Kate said...

I want that snail.... will any snail do the job? The robot makes me feel sick!

This is the most inspiring blog piece I have ever read, Cecila.... I am almost in tears!You write it so beautifully.