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.
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
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.
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.