Gazing at the Japanese toilet features, my mind is a jumble of curiosity and confusion. Having arrived fresh off a cycling tour in southeast Asia, a squat toilet has been the usual restroom for three weeks. Now at the Tokyo airport, the Japanese toilets appear to require an entry level college course to operate.

Japanese toilets

Even now, looking at the photo I wring my hands with anxiety. Do any of these buttons  flush the toilet? One of the diagrams looks like it might be the ejector seat, but more likely a Japanese bidet. Who knows? And who to ask at a moment when one has not yet flushed one’s business, for fear of blowing up the cubicle by pressing the wrong button?

What to Know about Japanese Toilets

Prior to travelling to Japan, I admit there was no research done on the intricacies of a Japanese bathroom. My preparations for water closet activities while in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, were as simple as carrying toilet paper in my cycling bag. A door that closed providing privacy a true bonus.

In Japan the toilet choices are far broader. First up is the traditional Japanese toilet (washiki toire), or squat toilet. We did not see a single one in Tokyo over four days. Secondly, the Western style toilet (yoshiki toire), resembling a commercial style toilet, has a handle for flushing. We may have seen one of these during our visit to Japan.

By far the most common is the I-don’t-have-a-clue-what-to-do toilet. Also referred to as a Japanese washlet. If you thought your dual flush toilet at home was a toilet picture of modern living, the Japanese bidet toilet combo will blow your mind. And a few other bits as well if you can find the correct button to push.

Japanese bathroom

A more western style Japanese bathroom, however the toilet seat lifted on entry

Features of the Japanese washlet bidet

Let me confess I never figured out all of the buttons of the magical Japanese bidet. The basic purpose of the bidet toilet combo in Japan is to wash your bits below once completing your business in the restroom, lavatory, toilet or whatever you might like to call the room where the call of nature takes you to.

However the Japanese washlet, a brand name of Toto toilets, the largest toilet manufacturer in the world, includes features one imagines a most creative, and heavily bathroom-focused engineer, designing. Washing of nether regions takes a foremost role in the multitudes of choices on the Japanese toilet.

Where would you like your toilet spray?

Would you prefer the water spray at the front or the back? Vibrating or pulsing jets? Maybe that button in the middle, looking like a showering tree, turns on the outdoor sprinkler system. I never touched it just in case. Here’s hoping the toilet water spray is not part of a high efficiency water recycling system.

Japanese bathroom

Careful where you rest your arm on these Japanese toilet features

Is that a ghost in the Japanese toilet seat?

The motion activated toilet lid opener is a dandy feature, once you understand a ghost has not possessed the Japanese toilet seat.  Arriving from the heat and humidity of Southeast Asia to the chilly wintry day of Japan, the toilet seat warmer made a most delightful impression on me. 

For your listening pleasure

To mask the sounds of Japanese bathroom business, a variety of sounds are available. From flushing water to classical music, the sound may begin when you sit down, which is enough to cause the uninitiated Japanese bidet user, such as myself, some cardiac stress. In most cases you will need to push a button. Good luck to that I say.

Japanese toilets of the future

Japanese toilet symbols

Japanese toilet symbols

The Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association agreed in January 2017 that the control panels of Japanese panels are confusing. You think? Going forward, standardized pictograms are to be used for all future Japanese bathrooms.  

Should you not have enough time to visit your health care provider, researchers are now designing toilets in Japan that can measure body fat, blood pressure and pulse while you sit on the toilet. As if there aren’t enough buttons to contend with.

If you are looking for the best flushing toilet it likely to be in Japan. All you need to do is find the right button to push.