Things you need to know before using a toilet in Japan

Aug 22, 2019
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Jennifer learned quite a few things while using the public restrooms in Japan. Source: Getty Images

When you travel overseas you’re likely to encounter toilets and cleaning devices you might never have dreamed of using in your home country. It can be a real challenge for travellers.

The first time I visited a public toilet in Japan was a real eye-opening experience. First, I had to remove my shoes and slip my feet into an appropriate sized pair of ‘toilet’ slippers.

While not all public toilets require this to be done, most do. It is considered bad hygiene if one enters a toilet wearing outside shoes. In fact, the slipper thing does not end with toilets. I found that in most hotels my footwear had to be removed and the appropriate slippers used. There are slippers for toilets, slippers for lounging in the hotel room and slippers for going down to the dining room or to the onsen.

Once I was familiar with these rules, it was time to learn how to actually use the high tech toilets. One could be forgiven for thinking a two-day course may have to be taken in order to learn what the various buttons on the wall of the cubicle are for. Most of the toilets I went into had the instructions in Japanese so there was no point in me reading them.

I was not familiar with the Japanese language and had no guide with me at the time. One thing I noticed and knew immediately what it was for, was a cute little kiddy seat attached to the wall. What a great idea for mums who could place their little ones in while using the toilet.

Those travelling with small children rejoice! You can stop them from doing anything awkward in a public restroom by plopping them into the conveniently located child seat (right). Source: Jennifer Lockhart

Getting back to actually using the button system though. There was nothing else to do but press each button separately and see what happened. On approaching the toilet bowl, the lid automatically lifted giving me quite a fright. Recovering my demeanour I decided so sit down and try the buttons.

First button resulted in a wonderful warm stream of water shooting out onto the front area of my bottom. After the initial shock, it was quite refreshing. I tried the next button, same thing almost, just angled towards the nether regions. No need for toilet paper here. What a great idea!

There was also an air dryer and one with the sound of running water and music. I thought maybe that was for those who needed a little encouragement to pee. Actually I was wrong; I later found out that it was to muffle the sounds of poop dropping into the bowl. Very thoughtful indeed. No one likes to hear others dropping one into the water right?

Now, which button turns the television on…? Source: Jennifer Lockhart

Yet another feature is the lights and diagram on the toilet block showing which cubicles are vacant. Another great feature I thought. Some of the toilet blocks even had showers. Not showers as I knew them, but kind of like oversized hand basins that one lounges in. Lying fully naked, in plain view of everyone who walks in, would be somewhat daunting so I did not try them.

The toilets, I have to say, are immaculate and incredibly clean. Even the ones in small towns and at railway stations were spotless. I felt that Australia could do well by adopting these kinds of public toilets, but with the exception of the open bathing. I would draw the line at that.

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Have you travelled to a foreign country and been shocked by something you've encountered there?

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