Otearai wa doko desu ka? A guide to Japanese Toilets

Whilst Pilgrim with her designer’s eyes was absorbing all the colours and patterns in Japan, I was a little bit fascinated by Japanese bathrooms. You see the combination of heat, lots of fluid and the fact that I have the bladder which is the size of a pea, meant that I spent quite a lot of my trip visiting the lavatory.

Here are the things that impressed me/amused me most about toilets in Japan (some handy hints in here too):

-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.-Most Western style toilets (even in public places) are super fancy with seat warming functions and warm water jets. 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! Hint: Best not to fiddle with the knobs unless you want to be surprised.

-Parents are catered for quite well, I saw a few family toilets, but most cubicles had these toddler seats in them, and a lot 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.

-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.

-Many toilets have a fake flushing sound button to mask your tinkle. Some will run water as soon as you sit down to mask your tinkle, it sounds like you’re having a giant tinkle – it’s a bit odd, I was bemused and amused.
-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! Hint: Japanese squat toilets are more likely to be vacant, which means less waiting.

-Most public toilets do not provide soap hand towels or hand dryers. Those that did have hand dryers had them switched off to conserve power. 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. I bought this bunny hand towel. It can also be used to mop up perspiration but whatever you do, NEVER blow your nose with it. 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 is Cinti’s guide to Japanese toilets…and if you ever get stuck “Otearai wa doko desu ka?” means, Where is the bathroom?



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