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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Great post! It’s been many years since I visited Japan, but this is important preparation for next time!
Thank you. Had I known how complicated the Japanese toilets were I think I too would have done some research! 😊
That’s downright scary, Sue! With all the germs around a toilet, I certainly wouldn’t want them introduced onto my parts via a water stream. Yuck!
I hear what you are saying. The Japanese are meticulous about cleaning and every toilet looked pristine but who really knows with bacteria.
Ha! This is great! Now I’ll have to add a cheat sheet of toilet options to my packing list.
Haha yes probably a good idea for the suitcase! 😊
Ahhh this is too funny! Actually there was a toto toilet in a fancy home exchange we once had in San Francisco. Once I figured out some of the “basic” functions, I’d have to say I’m definitely a fan of the toilet / bidet concept combo. Nothing “basic” about Toto, it’s the Rolls Royce of toilets. But music too, and health checks? …wow…leave it to the Japanese.
Ben lived in Japan decades ago and participated in a study for Toto…They were testing how foreigners liked the Japanese toilet. I guess they didn’t complete the study or it would be more user friendly for foreigners haha.
Love this post. Its so um quirky and humorous 🙂
What a coincidence that Ben was in a study. My guess is that more recent tests have revealed the confusion of foreigners when faced with the multitude of options.
I was in Japan earlier this year and absolutely loved these toilets. The Japanese culture is so clean and the toilet even has a self cleaning wand that comes out after the flush. These toilets do it all and I wish I owned one. What amazed me was they were even in the hostels & in public spaces. I loved the signs that they had posted for the Chinese not to get up on the seat and squat and not to throw the tissue in the waste bin like they do in their country. Japan is way too sanitary for that business. Even in the 7-11 stores when buying a coffee to sit at the counter, one disposes of their cup and wipes off the counter before leaving. There are no overflowing trash bins on the streets because they do not walk around and eat and drink. The school children clean their classrooms and the bathrooms at the end of their day. It’s just the way things are done. Pleasantly South Korea also had these Japanese toilets but then I went on the India which was the complete opposite of sanitation to say the least
Ginger we agree completely that Japan is the essence of cleanliness and it seems that their is great pride in keeping everything spotless. I appreciate you sharing your recent experiences. We have not been to India but from what we understand the difference would be quite the shock to the traveller.
If I ever get to Japan, I refuse go to the toilet. I’m not good with anything hi- tech. I’ll just find a bush somewhere.
Haha well do be careful as I believe there are some significant penalties in Japan for outdoor business making. 😊
Yikes! That’s too much thinking for such a simple task!!
Definitely puzzling John. Especially on the first encounter.
That was a fun read.
It has been decades since we were in Japan. Back then, the most common toilet outside our Tokyo hotel was a hole in the ground with possibly two tiles indicating where to put your feet — not the greatest thing for arthritic knees. 🙂
Times have definitely changed in Japan! Certainly your description is still a common find in many Asian countries. Definitely want to have some good quad strength for those!
This looks familiar. When Kim was in Japan he was so impressed with the toilets that he took me on a “tour” of his hotel bathroom via Skype. I still can’t imagine all the choices 🙂
I am smiling thinking of the virtual toilet tour. It’s obviously taken me some time to write this but the memory of my confusion still makes me laugh.
Haha – I had almost forgotten about these things! I think I’ve seen similar in a higher-end Chinese hotel and definitely in South Korea. Of course, I had no clue what to do with all the buttons!
I wonder if the toilet trend will spread? Perhaps there will need to be an international cooperation on explaining the buttons. 😊
We’re in Japan now and your post is so accurate! It has caused us much hilarity!!
Sharon hoping you are enjoying Japan and having more success with the toilet features than I did. 😊
Funny! Never once, when I rolled out of bed this morning, did I think I’d be reading about Japanese toilets.
We are full of surprises over here Jim. Thanks for reading!
This made me chuckle. I didn’t try any of the buttons until the last day of my second visit to Japan. Finally I pushed one that looked like it was designed to wash my, um, nether region – and it did! Water in exactly the right amount, and exactly the right warm temperature, aimed at exactly the right place. Perfectly obvious perfect Japanese engineering. They always get all the details right. I love Japan!
We love Japan too Alison. Every detail thought of and completely organized. I wish I would have been brave emotive to push each and every button. I’m sure all would have been perfectly pleasant.
That’s mind-blowing and totally crazy. It could put me off even going to the toilet which is never good. You can see what they are trying to do with the whole ‘experience’ but it’s so over the top it’s almost funny. Good luck to anyone using one.
For those of us who have never seen it the Toto toilet seems completely over the top. I do hope they can find a way to simplify it for those of us looking at the puzzling bathroom fixture and wringing our hands as we dare to push a button.😊
Wow, this is totally new to me.
Happy to bring you the toilet news from Japan Amy. 😊
I found the “intensity” buttons more than a little worrisome! Like you, I’d be afraid that if I ratcheted it up to the top setting, I might find myself blasted through the ceiling. That would be bad enough, but with my pants around my ankles, too…? Nope, too stressful for me!
Did you ever figure out which buttons were the “right” ones?
Diane I knew you would see the fun in this. I imagine a hilarious post from you should you encounter a Japanese toilet. I hadn’t thought about the pants. Very distressing.
I never figured it all out I admit. I got the basics down but will have to sign up for that college class to figure out the rest. 🙂
I’m now in Bali, but there’s a Japanese toilet in the bath. Along with a giant gecko. The toilet doesn’t have all those buttons, but it will spray your bum, but I’m not going for it.
Badfish you are alive! Wonderful to hear from you. How is life?
Here’s hoping the poor gecko doesn’t get the fright of his life, or potentially a blast to the ceiling inadvertently scampering over those buttons.
I have seen these and, probably like everyone else, taken a video and photos. The sound effects are fun.
They really are intriguing to those of us who are knew to the concept. The sound effect addition a very clever touch.
This was a really fun read, Sue. You’re so funny! It’s been 12 years since I was in Japan and I don’t remember them being quite this fancy. I have come across the auto raising lid but the one that causes me the most stress is the infrared flushed that invariably decides to go off if you shift the wrong way to reach the toilet paper.
Thank you Heather. I’ve been meaning to write this post for a very long time. We were just on a cycling trip to Jordan so thought it would be good filler in our absence. 🙂
Our three year old granddaughter detests those auto flushers, not to mention the roar that they make. I suppose if you are a little person it might feel like the bloody think is going to swallow you up bottom first.
Ummmm, no thanks, I’ll stick to a plain old fashion toilet. Too much thinking for taking care of business!
Laura seems like a reasonable plan. If you find your self in Japan it may be hard to come by a simple model. 🙂
I always wanted to visit Japan, but even more reason now. The toto toilet is mind boggling, I wish I could have one here at my home in Dorset. One of my best friends is from Tokyo, but I have never seen one of these fancy toilets at her UK home, must ask her about that 😄
Gilda one of our readers says she has one in her US home so you must be able to order them. Although we only spent 4 days in Japan we loved it and someday hope to go back to explore more. i’ll just have to take a course in toilets before hand. 🙂
Too funny. But I did encounter something similar in Calgary in public toilets near the new library. The door wouldn’t open until you washed your hands!
Darlene now that is a very cool idea. Was there a sign with instructions?
I have yet to see and experience a Japanese toilet, I must say. I do remember you posting a photo of it on Facebook a little while ago. That must have been after your first observation. Worthy of a blog post, for sure! 🙂 Those would be times when I’d wish for bilingual (English being the second language) buttons!
Now Liesbet there is the answer. A translating toilet! If they can measure body fat and blood pressure, surely a translator wouldn’t be so hard. 🙂
Haha. Hope you had fun 🙂
Thanks Joshi. We loved Japan even if we never really did figure out the toilets.
The joys of travel and negotiating bathroom visits. Lol. I once stayed in a monastery and the shower basin was the bidet. Gross.
Wowza! That is one nasty combination. Joys of travel indeed!
Wow. Incredible! I think that before travelling to Japan, I have to go to the toilet course. Thank you for this extraordinary informative post.
Have a good day!
I agree a little research ahead of time is likely a good idea! Wishing you a good day as well.
Their bathrooms made me so nervous!! I never knew what to do and I visited before Google could help!!
Candace it sounds like you and I had a very similar experience. Thankfully Google could help me a bit.
Thank you for sharing. It’s so funny to think that trying Japanese toilet seats is on my bucket list. I hope that someday we can travel again so I can go test the toilet seats in Japan.
Such an unusual topic I know. I was fascinated with the variety of bathroom possibilities in Japan.