The Hidden Functions of Japanese Toilets

Have you ever had trouble on knowing how to use Japanese toilets?

Japanese toilets have various unique characteristics and an array of functions which are not common in other countries. As a Japanese person I have often encountered difficulties and misunderstandings where customs, values and ways of using things are different. Naturally toilets are something that everyone uses, so it’s definitely beneficial to be able to use them without any issue.

This article will introduce how to use them so that your stay in Japan is not marred by a crazy toilet incident like you may have seen in movies or TV!

Where to find toilets

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In Japan, it’s possible to use toilets for free, unlike some other countries. They are found in places where you would imagine, such as hotels, department stores, stations, parks, and also in most convenience stores.

It is likely that the cleanest will be those of hotels and department stores. Most of the toilets will have built in washlets and also space for powder rooms with pleasant smelling soaps, and they are often known for having any type of facility that you could wish for. There are often cloths in place for people to clean the sink area afterwards as well so that the area is kept clean for the next users.

Where to find toilets by signs

The below sign is the most commonly used to display where toilets are located. As with most countries, the male and female symbols are quite similar. In some areas, there may be Japanese kanji only, where 男 is for men and 女 is for women.

The difference between “Japanese style” (和式) and Western style (洋式

The two main types of toilets are the Western and Japanese style ones as listed above. The western style toilets are the ones most commonly used these days, although one will often see the Japanese style toilets in stations, parks and other public places.

Below we will introduce the Japanese and Western style toilets.

Japanese style toilets

A Japanese toilet is used by crouching as shown below. One normally should place themselves as far forward as possible, to prevent water from splashing. These toilets should not be used simply by standing. The toilet is flushed by a lever normally on the left hand side in front of you. It may be marked “流す” (flush).

Western style toilets

As in most countries, the toilets are used as above, by sitting on them, and there is no particular difference in Japan. However, the methods of flushing can be different from what you are used to, and there are several different types of flushing methods, which may not initially be obvious.

Below we outline the four main types.

1) The lever turning type.

2) The lever that should be pushed down (these ones are not necessarily obvious and normally not marked)

3) Ones with buttons marked (大)(large flush) or(小)(small flush)

4) A button marked with “流す” (flush)

The cleanliness and convenience of Japanese toilets

The conveniences

In many Japanese toilets, you will find a large array of buttons as below, and can be very convenient for you if you know how to use them. These are the functions which are often used as gags on TV programmes where an unsuspecting foreigner presses the wrong button on a Japanese toilet!

・おしり・ビデ(Bottom and Bidet) This sends a spray of water from the toilet to clean your body after going to the toilet. You can select the strength of the spray with the “大小” (large spray/small spray) functions so that the spray is to your liking.

・音姫 (Flushing sound, or literally “Sound princess”). If you press this button, it will make an artificial flushing sound. This can seem bizarre at first, but once used to it, it can become quite convenient for covering up embarassing sounds, especially if you are going in a stall next to somebody you know! Many Japanese people do use this function. In some toilets, this sound will start automatically based on motion sensors when you sit on a toilet, so it’s good to be aware of this!

Other functions of Japanese toilets

・Toilet sheet paper seats - these can be found in some toilets, and are very useful for those who are fastidious with hygiene and do not wish for their body to make contact with somewhere other people have sat. These sheets are used as below by placing directly on the seat. These are normally disposable afterwards, but some types are made so that they can be flushed down the toilet.

・Anti odour products: These can be found in pharmacies and other similar stores. Some are large and can be used for the home, and there are smaller types that you can take with you to use in public toilets. These can be used to cover bad smells and replace it with a pleasant perfume, the ideal product for the less than pleasant public facility if you come across one!

・Dustbin: These small dustbins are mainly found in female toilets to dispose of sanitary napkins. These are not used for rubbish, so be sure to only use it for sanitary products if you use these! Such products should not be flushed down the toilet as they will cause blockages.

We hope that this article was useful and will allow you to use any type of toilet in Japan with no issues!