2011 Japan trip - Sep 12, Osaka (instant ramen museum, Sumiyoshi Taisha)
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on 2011-09-12 05:32:33
There was one of these at the hotel in Nara, too. I don't remember if there was one in Shinjuku. I have no idea what, or who, is on the other end of the line.
on 2011-11-08 09:14:36
I've subsequently asked several Japanese people about the bathroom intercoms, and although nobody is sure, the general consensus is that maybe if you're elderly or disabled and get into trouble in the bathroom (for instance, if you slip and fall down) you can use the intercom to call for help. I'm not entirely convinced, since I think if you get in *real* trouble you're unlikely to be able to get up and use the intercom. But I don't have a more plausible idea.
on 2011-11-08 09:19:20
Some Web sites have told me that in some Japanese bathrooms there are wall-mounted speakers that resemble intercoms but are actually the sonic equivalent of the air fresheners built into the toilet seats; if activated they produce pleasant sounds (for instance, of surf) so you don't have to listen to yourself poop. But I didn't actually see those installed anywhere, and the handset intercoms seem to be for some other purpose.