7 Essential Japanese Toilet Tips

  • HOW TO
  • Japan is known for its world renowned beauty and culture ranging from temples, cherry blossoms and delicious food. But did you know that even their toilets are a national treasure? If you have not experienced the glory that is the engineering marvel of a Japanese toilet, here are some helpful hints:

    1. Location

    There are literally toilets everywhere, but when in immediate need the best places to look for them are the metro stations and yes, even the pachinko parlors! They are open late or even 24/7 and are free, clean and air conditioned – a must during the hot Japanese summers

    2. Toilet Paper/hand towels

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    Some stalls do not provide toilet paper, though this is less rare the closer you are to the big cities. Luckily, there are the ever present tissue handlers on the street that pass them out mainly to advertise their stores. It helps to always have one for emergencies. You may even find a tissue paper vending machine nearby! Sometimes there are also no towels for hand drying. There is a whole array of absorbable small pocket towels that you can buy at any store, even at 100 yen stores or convenience stores.

    3. Bathroom slippers

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    These are communal and there to ensure that your feet do not touch the floor. Usually found in onsens/spas, temples or other areas where you have to take off your shoes. They are not, however, for you to keep. As a courtesy when done it would be nice to have them placed with the toes pointing toward the toilet for easy slip on for the next guest.

    4. Electronic options

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    There is a myriad of different buttons and every one has its own function. There is everything from music (to hide certain noises), deodorant sprays, bidets and even the ever popular toilet seat warmer. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the buttons as you don’t want surprise spray the wrong hole!

    5. Signage

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    The usual stick figures, romanji signs or even color coding make it relatively easy to distinguish men from women’s bathrooms. However, in some places they are demarcated by kanji signs only. Make sure you know which one is which!

    6. Squat toilets

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    Increasingly rare but still found, sometimes in shrines and temples. There are usually instructions on how to use them. I have seen some that use the mountain side and gravity to wash away the contents, so make sure you are squatting in the right direction.

    7. How to find a toilet

    Ask! One of the first phrases I learned was “O-toire wa doko desu ka?” (where is the toilet?) and it remains to this day one of the sentences I use the most. Japanese are very friendly. I even had an elderly Japanese lady take me by my hand through the snows of Sapporo to walk me to the nearest restroom for that sentence alone!

    Hope these tips help! Good luck!