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Our Japanese heritage in the smallest room: reflections by Murray Murchison

There is a strong tradition of Japanese culture on Cairns area and tablelands, stretching back to the hardy pearl divers of the 1830s, who travelled from the land of the rising sun to seek their fortune beneath our tropical waters.

Later, cane-cutters, honeymooners, blithers and sushi-chefs came to our part of paradise, looking for beauty and riches wherever they might be found. They soaked up our natural wonders and gave us so much more in return. From them we have learned the pleasures of onsen, the joys of saki, and the ecstasy of electronic toileting.

So, our slanty-eyed mates are indelibly intertwined into our way of life, and are an irresistible, almost aromatic, presence in our smallest rooms.

These things were brought to mind when, earlier this week, Tablelands historians announced that they had discovered a pristine Tōyō Tōki Tōure Model T toilet (pictured above) in a disused milkbar in Walkamin, the only known unit of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

It seems so long ago, but I do remember the original gas powered TTT bidets, with their pilot lights and the ever-present threat of arse-burn. I remember my dad whispering in my ear, "Don't worry son, let it rip. It's worth the risk."

Could it be that those frightening, exhilarating moments on the throne led me to a life on the edge; reporting from warzones and breaking the big stories? I do not know, but it might be so.

Life gets safer, and now we have the modern fly-by-wire, web-connected, porcelain marvels we can't live without. With their contour-mapped warm air targeting systems, the use of toilet-paper technology is a distant memory. The internet-of-things has expanded into unexpected and delightful places.

This new discovery in Walkamin fills in a vital piece of the jigsaw of our history. I applaud the efforts of the Far North Queensland Historical Society to preserve the artifact, and allow everyone access to it.



Trinity Beach, July 2017.

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