Travelling is awesome, all the big stuff like, trying different food, seeing the sights, trying to communicate with the locals, it’s challenging and makes life feel like an adventure.
But sometimes it’s the little things that you normally take for granted, that really make you realise that you are far from home.
Take the humble toilet for example, we’ve all got to go right? How different can it be? Well the Japanese are known for doing everything really well, and they have turned a humble trip to the bathroom into a very entertaining experience. That’s my take on it anyway.
After three trips to Japan, the novelty of the Japanese toilet has yet to wear off. Who knew that answering the call of mother nature could be so amusing.
If you are travelling to Japan here is some handy information and hints about their local lavatories:
Japanese Bidet Toilets
You’ll find these fancy high tech toilets in most homes, hotels, department stores and even cafes. They have a panel that controls everything you never knew you’d need your rear end to experience. The functions vary from toilet to toilet but usually include, water jets (front and rear), seat warming, air driers and fake water sounds. Some even have an automatic seat lowering function, think of all the arguments this could save at home!
If you are feeling brave have a play, you’ll be in for a surprise. Best to do it in the privacy of your hotel room, why you would use the bidet function at a cafe or department store baffles me, but each to their own.
Warm seats feel a bit weird, like you have followed someone that has been sitting there for a while, eew!
I didn’t work up the courage to experiment with the buttons till my second trip to Japan, and now I am a convert! Too much information?
Most toilets are self flushing or have a swipe sensor rather than a button. You get so used to the automatic flush that it’s almost annoying when you actually have to find a button to press.
The Flush Princess
Many toilets have a fake flushing sound button to mask your tinkle, these are often a little box on the wall in the cubicle, especially in public toilets. Other toilets will run water as soon as you sit down to mask your business, which sounds like you’re having a giant tinkle – it’s a bit odd, I was bemused and amused.
Most public toilets are very clean but don’t always have toilet paper. They are nice enough to tell you that on a sign when you walk in, except I usually read it on the way out.
Hint: Keep a small pack of tissues in your handbag, there are often people handing out promotional packs at train stations.
Parents are catered for quite well, I saw a few family toilets, but most cubicles had toddler seats that fold down over the regular seats.
Another genius idea are baby seats in the corner of the cubicle which safely hold your child so you can have your hands free to do your business. Most mothers carry their babies in slings or backpack style carriers in Japan rather than prams, so this totally makes sense.
Also many of ladies toilets have mini urinals for boys to use. It took me a while to work out what the urinals were for until I saw a little boy using it.
Hand washing hasn’t been forgotten. Wash basins at child height were pretty common, especially in attractions that were aimed at families.
About half of the toilets in a block are usually Japanese style (squatting), they are easier to use than you may think. Most bathrooms have a map when you walk in to identify which cubical is which, handy!
In older facilities like train stations or off the beaten path, squat toilets may be the only option available.
Hint: Japanese squat toilets are more likely to be vacant, which means less waiting.
Bring your own towel
Most public toilets do not provide soap hand towels or hand dryers. It’s customary to carry a small hand towel (like a face washer) in one’s bag for drying your hands.
Hint: Buy some pretty hand towels as souvenirs, they are sold everywhere, the designs are super cute and they are quite inexpensive. It can also be used to mop up perspiration but whatever you do, NEVER blow your nose with it or blow your nose anywhere with anything in public.
Hint: Best to blow your nose somewhere private, in the toilet is best with fake flush running so no one can hear.
If you are in someones home or in a ryokan there are often little toilet slippers you are supposed to wear whilst in the toilet.
Hint: Best not to wear them out, it’s not a good look!
So that my guide to Japanese toilets, and if you ever get stuck “Toire wa doko des ka?” means, Where is the bathroom?