Japan Does It Better 2: Public Toilets

Japanese washlet toiletIf you know me at all, you know that I haaaaaaaaaate public bathrooms. They are always dirty, the toilet paper is often 1-ply, there is no privacy (Why are the cracks between the stall big enough for people to see in?!), washing your hands becomes futile because you still have to touch the faucet and the door unless there is a fancy automatic shut-off and unless you wait for someone to come along and open the door for you!

Yep, it’s all gross. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.

So imagine my bathroom-phobic surprise when I walked into my first public Japanese bathroom (in Kyoto back in 2008) and saw this:traditional Japanese toiletI almost had a panic attack.

I mean, what do you even do???

Why didn’t someone warn me???

Thankfully, in Tokyo, most of the toilets are “Western style” (the kind that I am used to here in the States). Many even have a bank of fancy and confusing buttons…so many buttons, in fact, that sometimes flushing the toilet can be challenging. (Which button is it?) Japanese washlet buttons

The buttons are all part of the washlet–a bidet-like contraption fitted into the toilet seat. Washlets are in most of the public bathrooms and private homes in modern Tokyo. Most of the washlets include a seat warmer and a deodorizer, too. Some, like the one at the top of this post, have a music button you can push and it plays a little tune or water noises to give you a little privacy and drown out any…ahem…bathroom noises. In some public washrooms, the music/water noises start automatically. I’m a big fan of the music…I don’t want to know what’s going on in the stalls around me.

And you know the little paper seat covers that are in some (nicer) American public bathrooms? Many Tokyo bathrooms have these, too. And if they don’t, they have this:Japanese toilet seat sanitizer

It’s sanitizer for the seat! You just squirt some on a piece of toilet paper, wipe down the seat and it’s clean and ready to use. Genius, no?

Clearly, when it comes to public bathrooms, Japan Does It Better!

(In case you missed the beginning of this series, click here.)


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5 thoughts on “Japan Does It Better 2: Public Toilets

  1. uncustomaryart says:

    But for real, how would you use that ground toilet?

    • kimberly ah says:

      I never tried them! I think you squat, but I could never figure out how you do it without peeing all over your pants! 😉

    • You squat! Feet on the sides, looking towards the sinkhole It’s actually super easy and also more hygienic than western style. Only thing you need to do if you have long pants is roll them up so the pant legs stay on your legs and don’t touch the floor.

  2. Anne Elizabeth says:

    Oh my goodness, I’m so glad you have a picture of one of these! I tell people that I encountered a public toilet that had a spray function, among other things, and they don’t believe me! On several occasions I walked into a bathroom to find one of those ground toilets though. My teenage self was beyond mortified. I just decided I could wait until we got back to our hotel in Kyoto that day.

    • kimberly ah says:

      HAHA! Yes, I spent my first trip to Kyoto drinking sparingly and at the mercy of the kind Japanese ladies traveling with me–they always knew where the nearest Western-style toilet was located!

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