lifestyle

Japanese toilets receive new standardised symbols to help foreign tourists

44 Comments
By Oona McGee, RocketNews24

In the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the rush to standardise symbols to assist foreign visitors has seen proposals to modify some of the country’s most used icons, including the swastika-like Buddhist temple mark and the onsen hot springs bathing sign.

Another commonly used set of symbols can be seen on the nation’s collection of high-tech toilets, and given that makers have been using different pictograms for the various functions on their units, the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association decided to unify their symbols, creating a set of standardised images that will feature on all new spray toilets sold from April this year.

Madoka Kitamura, head of the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, appeared with representatives from the association’s nine member companies to unveil the new standardised symbols at an event in Tokyo this week.

The decision to create these standardised pictograms came about after a 2014 survey found that a quarter of 600 foreign respondents said they were unable to understand the images that appeared on buttons for the hgih-tech toilets.

Kitamura, who is also the president of Toto Ltd, a leading Japanese toilet manufacturer and one of the nine member firms, said he hopes the standardised icons will help foreign tourists enjoy the comfort of Japanese spray toilet seats and increase their popularity around the world.

Source: Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Everything you think you know about your washlet toilet is wrong -- Squat toilets’ popularity fading as parents call for them to be abolished in Japanese schools -- Japan’s government reconsiders plan to change country’s iconic hot spring symbol after backlash

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44 Comments
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What will the signs look like for the squatter toilets?

-5 ( +5 / -10 )

Kitamura, who is also the president of Toto Ltd, a leading Japanese toilet manufacturer and one of the nine member firms, said he hopes the standardised icons will help foreign tourists enjoy the comfort of Japanese spray toilet seats and increase their popularity around the world.

They are called washlets or bidets or electronic bidets, not spray toilets.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

They can leave the signs the way they are. provide a small english explanation to go along with the signs, that's all.

said he hopes the standardised icons will help foreign tourists enjoy the comfort of Japanese spray toilet seats and increase their popularity around the world.

I'm sure they will. No doubt about it. What they need to do is get rid of the squat toilets in public spaces and replace them with washlets for this to happen.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

I'd be far more interested in some signs that stop Japanese men urinating all over the floor in public toilets. And how about signs urging them to wash their hands? Particularly in this season of influenza, norovirus and the like....

12 ( +16 / -4 )

What about the symbol you see at airports telling you not to stand and squat on the seats to do your business?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Push here for small typhoon. Push here for large typhoon.

And really, shouldn't the flush buttons close the lid automatically? Who wants to watch it go down??

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Push here for small typhoon. Push here for large typhoon.

Hah exactly my thoughts.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The first two "samples" seem to be more for the older Japanese - those who are more used to "squat toilets"... Most foreigners do know how to open and close the covers of the toilet seat.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Why is there a fan symbol?

Kitamura, who is also the president of Toto Ltd, a leading Japanese toilet manufacturer and one of the nine member firms, said he hopes the standardised icons will help foreign tourists enjoy the comfort of Japanese spray toilet seats and increase their popularity around the world.

They are called washlets or bidets or electronic bidets, not spray toilets.

You tell 'em. What does the head of the industry body and CEO of the biggest toilet brand know?

This writer's concern with Kitamura's ambitions is the amount of extra electricity, water and paper (on wet posteriors) that these toilets consume. Any data on this?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I agree that there needs to be better signs/symbols for Japanese toilets. I know that was definitely one of the most confusing things about Japan when I came here. And recently when I had family visit, my sister accidentally pressed the button for emergency assistance because she wasn't sure which button was for flush. That being said, I would still find these new buttons confusing. Just because western toilets are so different. We don't have different options for a big flush versus a small flush, so I can still see many foreigners staring at those two buttons and thinking, which one should I push.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Tbh dual-flush toilets have become increasingly popular in the West too (at least in oz/west Europe) so many/most ppl aren't that surprised when they see 2 flushing buttons. Usually the 'big flush' button is either bigger or has a 'full-glass' icon on it vs a half-full one for the 'small flush' button, similar to what we get on washing machines (full/half loads). In any case, we do get which one to use/when.

The new typhoon/tornado-like symbol is ok I guess but imo not as clear as the symbols am used to (perhaps it makes more sense for other Asian cultures though, which is fair enough).

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Just because western toilets are so different. We don't have different options for a big flush versus a small flush, so I can still see many foreigners staring at those two buttons and thinking, which one should I push.

Australia, at least, has a dual flushing system. The two buttons are physically different sizes so it's obvious which is for big/small flush.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Most foreigners do know how to open and close the covers of the toilet seat.

Not really, since many Chinese still have little or no experience with modern toilets. And many Westerners could use the remedial course as well, judging from the toilets I have seen in North America.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

many Chinese still have little or no experience with modern toilets.

Those Chinese are not the ones that are visiting Japan. They are the ones living in the countryside. The Chinese people visiting Japan are those who have enough of an income to be able to do so, and I think you'd be extremely hard pressed to find even a single one that has not used modern toilets.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Aly RustomJAN. 19, 2017 - 07:47AM JST

They can leave the signs the way they are. provide a small english explanation to go along with the signs, that's all.

Majority of tourists to Japan do not speak English. Thus, we need universal means of communication.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

And really, shouldn't the flush buttons close the lid automatically? Who wants to watch it go down??

You need to watch it go down just to make sure that it has done so and doesn't need another flush.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Majority of tourists to Japan do not speak English. Thus, we need universal means of communication.

We're not talking about shakespeare in the toilet. Most tourists who come to Japan can read stop, flush, bidet, backside. You don't need an eikaiwa for that. Plus I said They can leave the signs the way they are. Meaning the japanese signs are fine. Between the cute japanese sign and the simple English, if you can't understand it, you're intellectually challenged

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I know many foreigners who got 0% of english ability, many asians and people from the ME also are new to our alphabet.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

You tell 'em. What does the head of the industry body and CEO of the biggest toilet brand know?

HE isnt the problem, the translator who wrote the article here is......

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Majority of tourists to Japan do not speak English.

The majority of tourists are not from English speaking countries, but that doesn't mean they don't speak English. I don't think the government takes stats on the number of English speakers visiting the country.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I know many foreigners who got 0% of english ability, many asians and people from the ME also are new to our alphabet.

I have lived in over 10 countries in the ME and I can tell you EVERYONE can speak some to excellent english there. A great many of them ALSO speak french in addition to english. Your comment on the ME is incorrect, with all due respect. I cannot comment on the rest of asia.

The majority of tourists are not from English speaking countries, but that doesn't mean they don't speak English. I don't think the government takes stats on the number of English speakers visiting the country

Very good point.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Personal experiences differ that don't make your or my Opinion incorrect.

unless you are talking about a place you have never lived in. Have you lived in the ME? I have lived in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait, and have spent time in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. I think I know the area, and I know the people. they do speak english very well. That is a fact. Again, and I ask this question respectfully, have you lived in the ME?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

>Most tourists who come to Japan can read stop, flush, bidet, backside. You don't need an eikaiwa for that

At an American owned factory out in the sticks recently I read a notice to help visitors decipher the washlet instructions:

to flush toilet please push the lever on your backside

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I also know many europeans who can't speak english from a variety of countries.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Back on topic please.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I also know many europeans who can't speak english from a variety of countries.

Neither can most Japanese, but they can read a word or two the same way many foreigners living in Japan may not speak Japanese but can find the men's or women's toilet with 男 女 Kanji. Even those europeans who can't speak english can read MEN, WOMEN, STOP, FLUSH. Again, like I said before, its not shakespeare in the toilet. Simple easy english signs are universal. You don't have to be conversational to understand it.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

They are called washlets or bidets or electronic bidets, not spray toilets.

Toto calls them washlets, but that is a trademarked term - so general usage would be discouraged. And a non-Toto brand toilet could not call it a washlet without being sued. That leaves "bidet" which most people understand as cleaning another area rather than the bottom. Many washlets have a separate bidet setting.

So I can see the quandry the translator faced.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Agreed, some of Toilets got a host of functions(usually under a cover).

Like temp control for seat and water, water pressure controls and more.

Personally I find the new symbols a bit confusing for newcomers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

with the little swirls signs , most people will think its to blow drying down there.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Majority of tourists to Japan do not speak English. Thus, we need universal means of communication.

StrangerlandJAN. 19, 2017 - 02:03PM JST

The majority of tourists are not from English speaking countries, but that doesn't mean they don't speak English.

Multiculturalism ends here. English supremacists are against universal means of communication.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I still think the squatter toilets are going to mess up a lot of people as they are still all over the place and the adventurous will surely run into them.

They at least need a picture showing people to not to sit on them. Yuckers

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Squatter toilets are not that globally, used to be quiet in some european areas.

So them often during travels as a teen and I not all that old.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Toto calls them washlets, but that is a trademarked term - so general usage would be discouraged. And a non-Toto brand toilet could not call it a washlet without being sued. That leaves "bidet" which most people understand as cleaning another area rather than the bottom. Many washlets have a separate bidet setting. So I can see the quandry the translator faced.

I've seen them referred to as "high-tech toilets".

0 ( +1 / -1 )

its easy solved dont have toilets at all but slop buckets and cans That way you can control those that do the wrong thing .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Toto calls them washlets, but that is a trademarked term - so general usage would be discouraged. And a non-Toto brand toilet could not call it a washlet without being sued. That leaves "bidet" which most people understand as cleaning another area rather than the bottom. Many washlets have a separate bidet setting.

Right, and one would think that the President of Toto would use "washlet" that is what the translator would use as well, as a direct quote, there is no infringement upon the use of the name in a quote.

Kitamura, who is also the president of Toto Ltd, a leading Japanese toilet manufacturer and one of the nine member firms, said he hopes the standardised icons will help foreign tourists enjoy the comfort of Japanese spray toilet seats and increase their popularity around the world.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As long as it's standardized, and not different for different manufacturers

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I just hope they keep the color-coding... that always makes everything easy to understand.

pink = ladies = spraying the frontal area

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I cannot even count how many times I pressed the assistance button by mistake/ or the wrong spray type, so this is really a good idea. Please mark the "emergency assistance" button too please; not just for me; but for somebody who might need it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I can tell you this now without any doubt, my parents are not going to have a clue what the typhoon symbols mean when they see that. Just write FLUSH underneath it - in japan, everything is made for convenience - so why is it so easy to open a riceball but so complicated to go for a pee??

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My family members who have visited me from Canada not only didn't understand how to use the washlet, but also showed considerable reluctance to use them anyway under the belief that the spraying water was invasive and/or unsanitary. I was taken aback by their ignorance and lack of common sense. North America needs to be educated more about the cleanliness of washlets.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

@MightyMo My mom felt the same way. I'm American and when I explain what a bidet was my mom thought it was disgusting and unsanitary.

Also, being from America my first time seeing a dual flush toilet was when I came to Japan. Maybe they are more common in Australia and Europe. I guess Americans are way behind the times with toilet technology

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My family members who have visited me from Canada not only didn't understand how to use the washlet, but also showed considerable reluctance to use them anyway under the belief that the spraying water was invasive and/or unsanitary. I was taken aback by their ignorance and lack of common sense. North America needs to be educated more about the cleanliness of washlets.

Actually my Japanese wife recently told me not to use the washlets in public bathrooms. She must have read about it somewhere or seen it on TV. Something about the cleaning people don't clean or even know how to clean the nozzle and other people's business builds up on it, then sprays onto you.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tell me, How they know the need for this change only the cleaner would know about toilet being misuse and how would the cleaner know what person was responsible for the misuse. Camera,s or hear say. This blame the tourist dose not add up. To get here you have to fly on a Jet and it has a toilet, I have never seen the misuse of a plan toilet but they do get dirty.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Alfie Noakes at Jan. 19, 2017 - 07:52AM JST I'd be far more interested in some signs that stop Japanese men urinating all over the floor in public toilets. And how about signs urging them to wash their hands? Particularly in this season of influenza, norovirus and the like....

Aren't there signs already that read "ippo mae" (one step forward) or the like? You can lead a man to a sign but you can't make him read it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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