Between the futuristic "Blade Runner"-esque toilets and the slightly terrifying (but healthier for you) traditional squatters, Japanese restrooms can be a bit intimidating for a first-time user. And even for those who have lived in Japan for a while, using a public toilet can still be a daunting task. So to better understand restroom woes for those coming from overseas, Japanese toilet manufacturer Toto recently surveyed 600 foreigners living in Japan about toilets in the country and what confuses them most.
First up on Toto’s toilet survey was a question about toilet choice. That is, if you were at a public restroom with Western-style (aka one you sit on) or traditional Japanese squat toilets, which stall would you go into? Unsurprisingly, over 80% answered that they preferred to sit rather than squat.
The next question asked those surveyed to think back to when they first came to Japan and to remember the biggest problems they had when answering the call of nature in a public restroom. Most people said that they had no idea how to use a Japanese squat toilet when they first saw one. Even foreigners who came from countries with squat toilets were a little confused exactly how to use the Japanese ones. One of the Americans polled said that he actually thought you were supposed to sit right on the toilet bowl.
And besides the squatters, many people recalled their utter confusion the first time they sat down on a modern Japanese “washlet” toilet (see photo below). The many buttons on the seat or nearby control panel overwhelmed many and utterly confused people used to simpler toilets that don’t need to be plugged in. And until you can read Japanese, you have to rely on the little drawings that still won’t help you out much. The futuristic toilets of Japan may look cool, but many people were intimidated at first.
When asked about if they use the bidet function on the modern Japanese toilets, the number one answer was that it did a good job of cleaning up and some said they even preferred the bidet to toilet paper. And for others, they liked to use the bidet because they were already used to using water via the bum gun to clean themselves in their home country.
Perhaps the answer that should make Japan the proudest was when 93.6% of those surveyed said that Japanese publics are cleaner than those back home. And at the end of the day, even with the squatting and the confusing computer-like toilets, you can’t argue with a nice, clean public restroom.
How do your experiences with toilets in Japan line up with this survey? Sources: Niconico news, TOTO
Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Everything you think you know about your washlet toilet is wrong -- Hotel guest posts picture of hilarious ‘how not to use the toilet’ instructions -- The top 10 instances when Japanese people feel thankful to be Japanese© Japan Today
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"Perhaps the answer that should make Japan the proudest was when 93.6% of those surveyed said that Japanese publics are cleaner than those back home."
I don't know what kind of God-forsaken country these people came from, but unless you're in a fairly swanky department store or similar, the public toilets I've used in Japan (especially in train stations) have been worse than abysmal. Piss-soaked floors, reeking of stale cigarettes, filthy brown marks, empty 'One Cup Ozeki' bottles, the works. And the icing on the cake is all the salarymen heaving and hoicking with great gusto as they spit everywhere. Real charming.
@Latinoz I agree with what you say but at least you don't come across too many syringes.
The sources being Niconico and TOTO a Japanese toilets manufacturer, I am not sure how to decode this article.
Really? Has the human race genuinely attained that level of stupidity?
@lationz compared to the graffiti covered walls and sometimes complete doors or seats missing back home I think Japanese level of cleanliness is quite good for public bathrooms.
BTW it was proven recently that squatting is not so good for the intestines. IT will mess up your intestines. So come come Japan, get rid of these horrible toilets.
Really? I've only ever heard the opposite. Do you have a link?
Both the yellow stuff and brown stuff going into same the hole in the floor is apparently a challenge.
Much prefer urinals here that (usually) go down to the floor. The latest "fashion" back home is something the size of a shallow helmet at waist height. Guess the designers never heard of rebound. And they're becoming more and more prevalent. I usually just head to the "booths" when I see these. No, thanks.
I'm also happy a lot of restrooms here don't have external doors meaning I don't have to hope the last guy washed his hands. I've seen people, (yes, back home) walk straight out of the loo, open the outer door and walk outside, without a glance at the taps. Charming.
Why does foreigners always have to nag about what Japanese do? Try to adopt, not to change!! A poll with 600 Foreigners participants is does not deserve a conclusion of "Japanese toilets make no sense".
Having heard from my daughter about the squat toilets at a well-known (but nameless) temple in Tokyo, where she was wearing jeans and boots and had to almost totally undress to take a pee, I can understand the problem. As a male who has used both, but prefers to use his hotel room's sit-on Japanese-style wash-the-bum version before heading out for the day, I'll go for the latter, thank you. Just wish I could import one to Canada, and amaze my friends!
This article reminds me of a lady from Minnesota touring our high school. Nature called her and we together with the principal and other visitors waited a while before we started getting worried to her absence. Schools in those days were all Japanese styles and this lady, a overweight individual, apparently could not get up after squatting so long. She was too embarrassed to call for help but got it when the president's secretary found out she needed help in getting her balance back. The school after that incident had a western toilet installed for visitors. In conclusion many students today would not know how to use a traditional Japanese toilet either.
One cannot brace themselves for the horror that awaits when opening the toilet door at your ryokan ski lodge and finding a row of washikis. There's just nothing worse in this world.
@lationz: Wuh?! I come from Australia, who's public toilets are multitudes cleaner than the ones I've seen in Europe and the US, but even they're way dirtier than the public toilets in Japan.. Where exactly are you referring to in Japan?
Cleaner? I use the squatting style toilets and I use about a public toilet about once a week on average. It is an unusual week when I don't walk into one of those toilets and find that someone has "missed" the toilet and then failed to clean up.
And unlike sitting toilets it isn't just a case of wiping down the seat or flushing, it means taking a mass of toilet paper and scrubbing the (often hardened) poop off the back of the toilet.
Now perhaps I should just walk away like the inconsiderate person who did it, but that wouldn't solve anything for anyone, and expecting the unfortunate cleaner to deal with that sort of mess when it has hardened to concrete-like consistency is just plain unfair.
From personal experience though I'd definitely disagree that the toilets in Japan are cleaner.
I'm guessing you have never been to the toilets in a train station here?
The futuristic toliets are awesome and should be adopted in the US, the squat toliets are pretty confusing if you've never used one. I wonder why the articles claims they are healthier? Leg exercise from the squats?
@Probie: Uh, yeah I have
What the hell is a bum gun?
Those inaka squat toilets that drop deep, deep down into occasionally emptied tanks still scare me. Have visions of some manic sloth climbing out and dragging me in. Still, on the whole J-toilets are far, far better than anywhere else in the worldI've been. And there are lots of them. Try finding a half decent public loo whilst out shopping in your average British city. Go on, try!
Sainsbury's always works for me....
@Clippety Clop So, you've never made a diversion into the alehouse to 'use the toilet' when out shopping? A fine tradition that every British person should fight tooth and nail to keep alive.
I'm assuming she spoke no Japanese? Otherwise she could have asked anyone from age 3 or older how to lower the jeans to her knees. Maybe they should add it to phrasebooks.
Unfortunately no, but it was discussed on this tv show : 世界一受けたい授業
Which century are you referring to and which places did you frequent, I wonder.
Overall, J-potties > US potties. With one exception--is there some unique challenge J-men face in getting their golden showers into the actual urinal? Even in otherwise clean restrooms, in office bldgs. no less, the floor is awash in pee.
I lived in an old fisherman's house in rural Hokkaido, complete with an indoor outhouse. Reeked in summer and froze solid in winter. A squatter, I can remember levitating there, freezing my proverbial a-- off in winter, snow actually fluttering in via a crack in the window. Good times.
'To what extent do toilets in Japan reflect the national psyche? Discuss with reference to squats and washlets.' This could be a good test or essay question.
Quite seriously I have read this discussed. Just now I was trying to find the passage very early in Erica Jong's 'Fear of Flying', win which the narrators describes different nation's toilets as reflections of their national psyches, but couldn't. can anybody help expand the literature relevant to this topic beyond just this article in JT?
Every time I go into a crowded toilet at the mall or somewhere, I've seen plenty of occasions where all the western toilets are occupied, while none of the Japanese toilets are.
I've NEVER seen it the other way around.
Which tells me that Japanese prefer the western style toilet.
Toilets here are great. They have doors and doors that go to the floor. They have toilet paper. The handicap toilets can be small apartments. They just need a fridge and denshi range and would be all set.
First few times visiting Japan I did quite a bit of bike touring, putting in long miles with much elevation gain. I vividly remember how great squatting with completely depleted legs and aiming for that pit felt.
Ha, I can relate to that. But it feels so good when you finish!
You can either admit that the bumwash squirty thing is the most tremendous advance in lavatorial satisfaction since the invention of bog roll, or you can pretend the mediaeval hole-in-the-floor is some ancient and venerable cultural wisdom you have to acquire a taste for, like tea ceremonies.
You can't do both. And if you had seen the state of the lavs at my local station, where patrons seem to regard the hole as nothing more than a suggestion, and points are apparently awarded for ballistic showmanship and how far back and up the wall you can squirt your offering, you wouldn't even try to defend the latter option.
The bogs in modern office buildings and department stores are often wonderful. However I think I would rather crap myself and spend the rest of the day squelching than go anywhere near the lavs in my nearest JR Station. The fact that most Japanese men happily exit these places without even the briefest wash of the hands is one of the most disturbing things about the country. No wonder they're sick all the time.
I forgot to mention the doddering old guys who seem to think it's natural to drop their trousers to their knees while using the urinal/floor, gazing at me as I'm the strange one.
I've experienced J toilets both ways. Utterly gross (even in high-end places, but more commonly in out-of-the way spots) as well as pristine marvels of incredible luxury. The same can be said of toilets elsewhere.
The hand washing thing, though, is bad. As people have pointed out, many in Japan don't bother. Those who do, often briefly wet their fingers in cold water minus soap, flink their fingers and spread all the bacteria on their hands onto those popular square cloths which go back into handbags or pockets.
The bidet functions of the Toto are fine if you like that sort of thing. Some do. Some don't. Squatting is difficult for people who are not used to it or whose balance or knees aren't up to it. For J people who are often shorter and lighter than their Western counterparts it's easier. Plus, they're conditioned to it from childhood.
Always, it's trickier for women than men who mostly point and shoot without half undressing. And sitting on a hot seat on a sticky, muggy day in the middle of a hot flash is beyond irritating. Then again, when it's the only warm spot in a house with temperatures in the single digits, you could park there all morning if it weren't the only loo in the house.
What's all this 'loo' business? Use the plebby 'bog' or 'toilet' or the snooty 'lavatory'. The wishy-washy, fence-sitting, battling middles word 'loo' is an abomination.
Squat toilets used to be common in Italy and France, but it's years since I've been to either place, so it may have changed. As for how they could be confusing, I agree with lucabrasi, do we really need a manual for EVERYTHING?
There is waste matter to get rid of, there is a hole in the floor. Is it that difficult to put poo and poo together?
Squat toilets are actually very good because no part of your body comes into contact with any nasty horrible creatures that the previous occupee might have left on the toilet seat.
But washlets have to be the most civilised way of paying homage to Thomas Crapper. I really miss them when I go abroad.
Squat toilets are healthier for the 'elimination process', but you won't catch me using one unless I'm absolutely desperate, and even then I'd try not to (well, for urination no problem, per se, but still). I know HOW to use them, of course, but I just don't like the fact that you have to squat down in a DISGUSTING place, often caked with urine (walls and floor alike), sometimes with no tissue, crap on the walls, and needless to say the place is often dank. I would much rather use a sit-down toilet -- though even then the public ones can be dodgy.
As for the washlet toilets, I never use any of the functions save the heated seats, which I love in winter. One thing I could never understand is why there is a HUGE button set next to the toilet, but then also a remote control within reach of where you sitting. What do you need the remote for with the buttons right beside you?
When I first came to Japan in the early 90s, public toilets in Japan seemed as if a human waste bomb had hit them. Having navigated the stains, the cigarette butts and fast food wrappings that littered the floor (yes, people would use public toilets to "rest" and have a snack) the user was faced with NO toilet paper. That always confused the hell out of me until I was told that people were expected to bring their own. Nowadays, they are generous with the paper but the new fangled Captain Kirk style seats now make it too difficult for novices to even find the flush button.
I might've been a bit harsh with my initial description/comparison of public toilets in Japan, especially considering I've never had to deal with some of the things just described by others (syringes, graffiti etc covering the walls). There are indeed plenty of very well looked-after toilets in Japan - but I stand by what I said about most of these being tucked away - and that the heavy-use ones, such as in train stations, I still stand by them being completely and utterly disgusting, a lot of the time. The horrors I've seen....the horrors.
I never use a squat loo. Tried it once, fell over and to regain my balance hand in the trough. No thanks. I'll stick to a western toilet and leave the squat ones to those that prefer them.
It's actually why I'm afraid to go to the country in Japan... I really can't cope with those loos, not with my knees anyway.
Back from Athens and Rome. In Athens forget about public toilets. Very very few and you don't really want to go there. Stores don't usually let you use their WC. You're trained from childhood to empty yourself completely before you leave the house. We used one in a coffee shop, the mens' was ok because it was early in the morning, the womens' was told it was horrible. Lucky if you could find toilet paper. In our hotel WC was top notch. Rome also has no public WC I could find. You need to go to a restaurant of coffee shop. Sometimes good, sometimes terrible. I didn't use the Vatican WC. The cue was longer than the one for St. Peter's cathedral.
My absolutely worse public WC experience in Japan was at the train station in Mobara/Chiba where the "drop, drop deep tank" was full to the brim and had to battle a cloud of mosquitoes for the few seconds I had to be there. Having said that I have no major complaints about the WCs in Japan. Easily accessible everywhere and most in excellent condition. For those who say they find only dirty ones, they should perhaps start visiting other stations than Shimbashi or the like where sararimen flock. Never found a dirty toilet in any store, restaurant or coffee shop. My only complain is that occasionaly in the "western" WC booths the door is too close to the toilet boul making it extremely difficult to sit down or stand up without hitting your head and to get your clothes proper again. Don't even want to imagine what a sumo wrestler would do in such a tiny booth.
Sure, many things that exist in a foreign country that look and operate differently than what we've been taught to use our whole lives in our native countries may seem to "make no sense". But that is because we didn't grow up in the same places.
Before I came to Japan, I had never once seen a Japanese toilet. I loved Japanese classic films and Ghibli, but Totoro was never shown using the crapper, so, how was I supposed to know how to use a j-toilet?
I didn't get dropped on my head as a kid, i think I'm fairly bright, but I had no idea how to properly use one when I first encountered one in an old convenience store! Ha!
Now, after all these years, yeah, I know how to use them, but I prefer my porcelain throne. That's just me, people can relieve themselves how they feel like it.
And as far as public loos in Japan are compared to anywhere else, I've seen good ones, I've seen massacres, but I do love how the door goes all the way to the floor and people can't try and check underneath or through the cracks to see if someone is in there.
Love how I get thumbed down for falling over in a Japanese style loo. Must be great being perfect...
When I went to the countryside in May I was taken short and had to find a loo... there was an outdoor cafe and they had what looked like a portaloo back home... but I was imagining it was a trough. However, I didn't have any option and upon opening the door I was met by the sight of a washlet type loo... complete with bidet function! My relief was twofold.
Yep, Japanese toilets are definitely cleaner than the ones back home. My only grumble is the lack of soap and somewhere to dry my hands!
The one advantage Japanese public toilets seem to have over the ones in my home town is that they seem not to be constantly hosting a parade of cottaging homosexuals, avidly waving their winkies at each other. At least Japanese toilets seem to be used for their intended purpose, no matter how cavalier some users’ aim might be.
Vagabond36: "Yep, Japanese toilets are definitely cleaner than the ones back home."
I would agree in the case of privately owned businesses (especially large department stores), but not public washrooms or at train stations. Mind you, there are of course horror stories everywhere else even with public washrooms. And why on earth doesn't someone try to make a business important urinal cakes? The washrooms in City Office buildings, usually with no proper air-conditioning, are absolutely revolting -- even just the urinals -- when the heat is near 40 and the humidity at 95% or so.
I've never come across any repartee when someone's backside barks while relieving themselves at the urinal in Japan. Has anyone ever come across such useful expressions in a phrase book?
I admit to preferring the poopy thread to those focused on medieval psychopaths.
Anyway, here's my final contribution. While still a newly minted gaijin, I had a rather unfortunate and explosive movement at a Rokko Liner Station here in Kobe. This was an old fashioned albeit western toilet and for the love of god I couldn't find a flush of any kind. All I could see was a button on the wall. You guessed it--an alarm for emergencies. Naturally, there's no off switch. So as I flee in shame as the siren blared (the only person in the entire restroom, mind you) I pass by a diligent concerned station attendant sprinting towards my deed.
Japanese hate these squat toilets too- if they have choice it will always be the last to be used.
Its a disgrace that even new toilets don't always have means to supply soap and some means of drying your hand. The building where I have Japanese lessons as well as some government departments had new toilets put in all level and they didn't have hand drying means of any type. Their squat toilets are last to be used.
If the foreigners use only convenience stores , shopping centres, restaurants`, other semiprivate and private toilets, then they get the impression that all toilets here are very clean and much more likely modern. Using public and train station toilets would show they how primitive and dirty toilets are in Japan.
Its a mystery that people can't understand washlets when they have pictures.
The 1st time I used a squat toilet was in Greece.
Most Japanese toilets these days offer a choice or are pure western.
As for cleanliness I would say it depends in frequency of cleaning and use. Station toilets tend to have a constant stream if users, do soap and toilet paper run out fast(many 'borrow' the roles for home use). Thanks, god for pocket tissues that are handed out for free. ;)
Never had a problem figuring out a washlet, said that many toilets now flush via infrared sensors mounted on the toilet or in the wall.
Strangest feature is the sound masking button to hide the sounds of doing your business.
I love wash toilets. Wash toilets ought to make Japanese stand up (or sit down) with pride. The wash toilet is far less of a strain to master than the squatter. Your chances of missing are intimately less on a wash toilet. And it beats the traditional sitter in one pleasant and ecological way by saving toilet paper and your time and nerves. To be absolutely clinical, in the event of a messy evacuation you use up a great deal of time and paper to rectify the problem. The wash toilet takes care of that in seconds.
Hygiene would be improved, tons of toilet paper saved and pipes would be less clogged if the wash toilet reined supreme in public and private life.
Sure Japan has clean toilets, and it has dirty ones. However, before coming to Japan I had never seen the sight of people crapping on the floor - which often happens with Japanese toilets. Funnily enough, it also happens when people used to squatters use Western style toilets: they hover over them...determined to not let their bums touch the 'dirty' seat...and then crap over the seat. Their personal hygene goal achieved, they slink off to leave others to clean up their mess.
In my recent trip to Tokyo, all the toilets encountered were "western style". Most were self-explanatory with the exception of one non-electronic toilet - the flush handle was detached from the toilet, about 3 feet from the toilet on a side wall, and did not resemble a lever at all. The most complicated toilet controls I encountered were in a chain restaurant in Shibuya. This front panel was left completely alone by me:
...because the top row of buttons were what I REALLY needed to use:
A little off subject about clean toilets in Japan. Have any of you guys experience a cleaning lady waiting directly behind you at a train station urinal? It happened to me a few times, and it feels awkward when you are the only person there trying to finish as fast as possible, while she is standing there waiting to clean up.
Don't mind the squatter at all myself. I find it facilitates the movement beautifully. Public toilets everywhere are rarely top shelf - if you think the ones in Japan are bad, go give India a try for a bit of perspective.
The toilets in department stores are often sensational in Japan and I can clearly remember my first toilet in Japan at Narita. It was an epiphany.
TrevorPeace1-you can easily buy Toto washlets in Canada. Just ask at any quality plumbing/bathroom store. Toto USA sells and distributes them. Rather pricey though. In the Toronto area many Asian stores also sell them.
I have also seen Korean sold at Costco in Canada.
Haven't been to Japan yet, but came across a squat toilet in Eastern Europe. Not fond of them.
For me squat toilets are coming from medieval age...but that is me.
I was using the urinal (the type with their own little cupboard-like space and a non-locking door) on an express train that was running on relatively rough local tracks. It hit a sharp wobble in the track, which shot me out of the door, johnson in hand, across the aisle. Fortunately, it was near the end of the line and the train was relatively empty . . .
When I first came here 16 years ago, finding myself in desperate need of a toilet and finding only a squat toilet available, the question that instantly came to mind was, 'How can they read the Sunday paper?'. That still has me baffled.
They make no sense in that they have sophisticated control panels but often don't provide soap for people to wash their hands with after
I live in the Big Apple and there are very few public toilets, and once you get away from Mid-Town in Manhattan; there are no such things as Public toilets. The most used "Public Toilet" is the city itself; especially the Transit System where, traditionally, the train stations has been used as such for both urination and defecation. The city has a large homeless population that have no place to go, so they go in the streets and anywhere else they can find. New York tried to install public facilities some years ago, but that did not go very far; so public toilets is out of the question. The only semi-public toilets are in restaurants, and you have to be a customer to use their facilities. In the past there used to be paid toilets, but there were banned in the sixties.
Of course I squatted the wrong way my first attempt using a Japanese toilet 41 years ago ... and dropped my wallet into the water. Plop! I fished it out, curse a bit and sat the other way. I could go on and on and sound very negative about Japanese toilets then, but the only comment I would like to leave here for now is that there has been vast improvement in Japanese toilets than what I first used in Japan. I guess I am more curious why Americans do not use bidets. To me it is the cleanest way to do one's daily job! Does anyone know the answer?
Lationz: it is INCORRECT that squatting is bad for the intestines. Squatting is the optimal position for defecating. The Western toilets are bad for voiding. G Lawson-Bouchér, MD
Anthony: I never said squatting was bad for the intestines.
@Anthony Lawson. I think you meant @papigiallo about the intestines.