One of the absolute essentials to having a pleasant trip is to be able to go to the toilet without worries. Here is some information about bathrooms in Japan that you ought to know before you embark on your trip.
Places with toilets
In Japan, toilets located in public spaces are generally open to everybody. Toilets are mainly found in airports, train stations, shinkansen (bullet train) and commercial facilities. Many tourist spots, parks, convenience stores and supermarkets also have toilets. Sometimes, even trains that travel long distances, such as the Tokkyu Line (Limited Express), and express buses have their own toilets.
In any case, toilets in Japan are basically free of charge and tipping is not necessary when you use them. Depending on the place, however, there are also toilets that are only accessible to customers or users of the facilities where they are located, and toilets that can only be used if you buy something from the store. Hence, it would be better to ask before you use any toilet in Japan.
※Image of a public toilet at a park
Toilet information display
There is no single sign for toilets in Japan, as many kinds of toilet signs exist in the country corresponding to where the toilets are located.
Further, signs that combine characters or letters with illustrations and drawings are also popular. By and large, toilet signs are differentiated through color and diagram in order to make it easier to find which ones are for men and which ones are for women. But even these distinctions come with different designs, so it would be best to ask an employee or attendant first so you won’t go into the wrong one.
Types of toilets
There are three major classifications of toilets in Japan.
The Japanese-style toilet is the toilet that has been used in Japan since olden days. To use this kind of toilet, you have to stride across the toilet bowl and squat. While this particular type of toilet has been dwindling in number in recent years, it is still often seen in public toilets and facilities housed in old buildings.
The western-style toilet is the popular kind of toilet that is most often used in general households and public toilets. To use this toilet, just sit on the toilet bowl. The toilet shown in the photo is one in that cannot be used unless you lift the cover first. These days, however, more and more toilets do not have covers anymore.
Multipurpose toilet (priority toilet)
Anybody can use this kind of toilet, but it typically prioritizes persons in wheelchairs, ostomates, and those with infants. It has a big space and is equipped with handrails, sink and a diaper changing station (baby table) for infants, among other features.
Toilet usage and various features
Now, this section provides explanations the proper way to actually use toilets in Japan.
How to flush
In Japan, used toilet paper is always flushed together with your waste. There are many ways to flush, so in the case of tank-type toilet, you have to turn or twist the lever handle on the side of the tank, while in the case of a toilet without a tank, you generally need to pull down the lever handle. There are also toilets with flush buttons on the wall or sensors for hands, as well as toilets that automatically flush when you stand from the toilet bowl.
Warm water bidet and heating function
Many toilets in Japan have hot water bidet (for washing). The bidet is primarily used to wash and dry your private parts, with its water pressure and temperature generally adjustable. Further, some toilets even have toilet seat heaters. To operate this mechanism, use the button installed on the side of the toilet seat or on the wall.
Toilet melody or sound generating device
A lot of the toilets in Japan have a “sound generator” that plays the sound of flowing water or flushing to mask excretion sounds. You can usually play the sounds by using the sensor for hands, a button, or the automatic sensing device.
Aside from the above, toilets in Japan have various other features. Some of these features and functions include the baby table that is used for changing a baby's diaper, the “fitting board” that is convenient for changing stockings and changing children’s clothes, and the “baby chair” where a child can temporarily sit while waiting for his/her guardians to finish using the toilet.
Further, there are many different types of hand washing zones in Japan. Many of the sinks have been using sensors to automatically turn on the faucets and dispense soap, and for drying hands, air towels that blow water droplets away from your hands are generally used.
Japanese toilets are famous all over the world for always being spotless. They are subject to meticulous cleaning so that anybody can use them without worries, and users value the right etiquette when using them. Here are the things you need to be careful of when it comes to toilets in Japan.
First of all, only toilet paper can be flushed in the toilet. Never flush tissue, sanitary products, gum and other trash as they may clog the pipes. Throw them in the trash can inside the toilet. Further, do not smoke inside the toilet, as doing so will set off the smoke detector.
There are some toilets in Japan that come with an emergency button for those who suddenly feel sick. This is indicated by the “kinkyu” (emergency) and “yobidashi” (call) sign, so make sure you do not mistakenly push these buttons instead of the flush button.
※Image of “kinkyu” (emergency) and “yobidashi” (call) buttons
Recent toilets in Japan
Lastly, here is the latest information and situation of toilets in Japan.
Energy-saving toilets have been growing in number each year, including toilets that automatically open or close and deodorize and disinfect the toilet seat when you enter the room and then flush after you use the toilet, toilets with power-saving functions that regulate the temperature of the water only at the moment you use the toilet, and toilets with water-saving functions that effectively flush with just a small amount of water. Japan is pursuing constant progress in toilets with the help of the latest cutting-edge technologies in the market in order to make users feel more secure and comfortable.
The WOW!JAPAN website lets users search for toilets near the place where they are situated through the spot search function. Please use that feature to find a toilet when you’re in Japan!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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