A Tale of Two Tokyos – Domestic Robots and Permaculture Bathrooms
Written a year ago by Cecilia Macaulay
Robot and charcoal-fired tea ceremony brazier
Roving, roving. I’m now staying in Central Tokyo, at my usual home with the Ota family.
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 Jetsons cartoons I watched when I was tiny are now my life.
We sat and enjoyed our whisked macha green tea, with chestnut sweets. The robot 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.
It’s 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.
He’s become so skilled at recruiting micro-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 neighbours 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 Yumi Kumamoto babysits Phil Cashman’s daughters