Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Japanese Bathroom Humor

I had never seen so many toilets with so many buttons.

Should a toilet really come with directions, as the one in our hotel in Tokyo did? I always thought it was pretty simple-- do your business, press down the handle. Oh, how wrong I was.

Here's the toilet in our Tokyo hotel:

Here's the directions:

I know it's difficult to read, but really- should any toilet have a three-step process that needs to be outlined?

Here's basically how it worked: The bowl was only partially filled with water at any given time, so a sensor noticed when someone sat down and filled the throne with more water.

After you're done it's time for the buttons: The spray or bidet. I think the photos on the buttons are pretty self-explanatory. Especially the spray one in the middle. No mistaking what that does.

I think you could also adjust the pressure of the spray and bidet. I don't know. I ignored all of these buttons and lived in fear that I would accidentally press one.

Then it was time to flush. Push the handle one way, and it was a tiny flush. For, um, larger loads, push the handle the other way and a bigger gush of water poured through.

When we went to the high-end shopping mall Tokyo Midtown, I got a whole other bathroom experience. Not only did it have a seat warmer (!), but the toilet had even more buttons.

The spray and bidet are evidently kid's play. This one included a "flushing sound" button that is exactly what it sounds like. When we got to Hiroshima, I asked Gail about this. She said women don't like to be heard on the pot. Sometimes they'll just repeatedly flush if the button isn't available. So much for the benefits of low-flow toilets.

Another perk with this toilet: a "powerful deodorizer" button.

On the other end of the spectrum: the Japanese squat toilet.

Most places had a row of squat toilets and at least one Western-style toilet, and the doors were labeled with what was in store behind it.

Readers, I used one. I used a squat toilet.

You could almost say it was by accident. I was in a bathroom with three toilets-- two Japanese style, one Western. My turn in line came up, and the only open stall held a squat toilet. I tried to let the girl behind me take my turn so I could wait for the Western-style, but she graciously motioned for me to go ahead.

So my choices were to go in the stall and (1) pretend to use it, flush and then get back in line, humiliated or (2) use it. I used it. And I'd never been so proud to use a toilet since I was about two years old.

One thing I'll say: If I were to use this style of toilet more often, I'd definitely have to work on strengthening my thigh muscles.

I'd done a little research before vacation on how to use a squat toilet just in case I was ever faced with this situation. Not everyone does, I guess. I found this sign in one of the bathrooms.


  1. Wow, toilets with buttons, sounds, and deodorizer? When I was in Mali, West Africa last year, I had to learn how to use their toilets. The one at the guest house reminded me of one back home, only to flush, you pulled up on a handle on top of the toilet. At the hospital, the "toilets" were similar to the squat toilets, only more of just a hole in the floor that you squat over. The worst part was that there was no toilet paper at the hospital. They had "tea kettles" that they filled up on the way in to wash themselves when they were done.

  2. Yay Diane! I meant to ask you if you had used any of the squatters by the time you made it here. Glad to hear it all went well, haha.

  3. Oh my! I have enough anxiety when it comes to using public bathrooms here in America. I can't imagine what I'd do if I were in Japan. Oy. Hopefully not fall right in.



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