You are here

A Traveller’s Guide to Japanese Toilets


You’ve no doubt heard of them. They’re weird, they’re wacky, they’re cutting edge technology and they’re one of the most remarked upon things by travellers going to Japan.

I’m talking, of course, about the Japanese toilet...Read on to discover my guide on the various types of toilet in Japan, and what exactly they can do.

Japanese toilet

Japanese toilet

Types of Toilet

There are three different types of toilet you’re likely to come across on your travels across Japan. They might come in different shapes and sizes but they fundamentally break down into the following categories:

1: boring old western loo

2: the slipper loo

3: the all singing, all dancing, ‘what do all these buttons do and why did it start playing rushing water when I walked past - good grief, why is the seat warm?!’ loo

Toilet buttons in Japan

Toilet buttons in Japan

1.…I am fairly sure this needs no explanation! Some might have a little tap above the seat that drains directly into the cistern so you can wash your hands and the runoff goes into the next flush. Pretty ingenious and eco-friendly, if not a little cold.

2. The ‘slipper loo’, or traditional Japanese squat toilet, is likely to be found in older buildings and public conveniences in parks, temples and shrines etc. These squatty potties are sunken, oblong shaped receptacles with one end covered by the flush (making them look much like a slipper, hence the name) and are pretty straightforward to use as long as you’re pointing in the right direction.

Remember: aim for the hood, and you’ll be good.

3. They may have more buttons on them than your average car dashboard, but these are nowhere near as intimidating as people would have you believe. Essentially, you’ll be presented with a panel that looks something like the example below, and if you don’t press any of these buttons you’ll find you experience just as mundane and business-like as any other day to day visit to the porcelain throne. If you’re feeling a bit braver… well. Let me guide you through it. It’s a life changing experience.

Japanese toilet

Japanese toilet

The Fun Toilet

The first button means STOP. This is your lifeline if it all gets a bit uncomfortable and you feel the need to abandon your experiment.

The second is SPRAY. It… does what it says on the tin. You can see the WATER PRESSURE beneath the SPRAY and if you use this or the BIDET button you can use this to adjust to your personal requirements. There are some panels that come with options to adjust the temperature too.

FLUSHING SOUND is a bit stranger. Essentially, it’s there to prevent any embarrassment while you go about your business, and many cubicles come with automatic sensors that trigger the sound as you walk past. Before these were installed, the common practice was to flush before you get to work, and then afterwards to dispose of the evidence, which lead to a great deal of excess water use. The noise is there to cover up for you.

…I’m sure the POWERFUL DEODORIZER is self-explanatory and can be used at your own discretion.

TOILET SLIPPERS: In some places like onsen, ryokan and restaurants (essentially, anywhere that you’ve been asked to remove your shoes), you will find the establishment provides you with a pair of toilet slippers to wear. It’s more than likely that they’re going to be too small for you. They may or may not have the word TOILET emblazoned all over them, but this is to remind you to remove them once they’re done. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU WEAR THESE OUTSIDE THE TOILET. Once you’ve made this mistake once and been shouted at by a scandalised Japanese granny, this is something you are never going to do again.

Take it from someone who knows.

Written by Lucinda Hill

Lucinda, currently working on the Flight Centre Concierge team, had never been further afield than France until she hopped on her first flight aged 12 and hasn't looked back since. Having set foot on five of the seven continents, she will talk your ear off about her travel experiences; whether it’s her quest to eat ALL the gelato in Italy, coping with being gawped at in an onsen Japan or how she escaped Scientologists in Hollywood, she’s got a travel tale for every occasion.

More articles from this author >

Looking for Some Trip Advice? Chat to our Lovely Travel Consultants Today!

Flight Centre’s Travel Consultants really know their stuff when it comes to creating bespoke itineraries. Get in touch below, and let us tailor-make it easy