Japanese Bathrooms 101

Voilated. That is the single best word I can use to describe my first experience with a Japanese toilet. But, at the same time, I was intrigued. Maybe the whole concept of dry toilet paper used in the west was really super unsanitary  and the Japanese have it right. In fact, the more I think about it, maybe it is the western cultures (with exception of France) that is still a bit primitive.

Understanding Japanese Sanitizers

cleanerBefore you get started, be aware that many public places like malls, train stations, and restaurants will have Sanitizers right in the stalls. Some of graphics to give you an idea what to do. I found this one with the illustration which shows you how to dispense and use the sanitizer on the toilet seat before sitting. The Japanese are very concerned about sanitation in all aspects of their lives from removal of outside shoes before entering a house, church (temple) or business to other things like offering hand cloths for washing hands before and after meals. It is a big deal here and you’ll find evidence of the mind-set almost everywhere.

Guide to Japanese Toilets

toilet3Toilets in the United States are pretty simple. Basically you only have one option, a single knob to press to flush. The hardest part is for a man to remember to put the toilet seat down so as not to offend the women in the house. Europeans take it to the next level. I saw toilets in Germany and Denmark with two buttons on the top. One was usually smaller than the other. Press the small one for a small flush and the big one for a big flush. Simple, easy. However, the Japanese (and French) take toilets to a new level. About 90% of the toilets I’ve seen in Japan are equipped with electronic controls. That alone should be a sign something is up. The challenge is the majority of the controls are labeled in Japanese.

Controls for a Japanese toilet. This one has graphics and English. Some don't which can give you a surprise if you aren't expecting it!

Controls for a Japanese toilet. This one has graphics and English. Some don’t which can give you a surprise if you aren’t expecting it!

  • Most toilets are heated and warm when you sit down
  • If peeing, you can just flush using the smaller flush. If there is no English, look for a character like a fish hook with two small lines to each side of the hook like this:  小 For a bigger flush look for the other symbol like a star which looks like this 大
  • If you just finished with solids, then you have a bunch of options. Sit for a minute and look at your choices. Remember there is an off button. Locate it before you get started!
  • Every control is a bit different. The one’s I’m showing pictures of were in a new mall and had English. Usually the controls were down near the toilet seat on the left side and not in English but often had small illustrations.
  • Stop is the most important button. Don’t stand up until you push the off button!
  • Look to see if there is an intensity control to turn up the water pressure, or lower the pressure.
  • Prepare to be sprayed with water on your butt. If you are sitting centered on the seat, the spray won’t go all over your butt cheeks and there will be little or nothing to dry off with some toilet paper. Basically what happens is a little robot arm swings out into the area above the water in the bowl a few inches below your butt, then sprays water to clean off any mess. You can change between Bidet and Spray to control the focus (think of it like the squirt gun on spray bottles, but without the ‘mist’ mode).
  • Try the Bidet first. It is a wider spray and seems less intense. Adjust the water pressure if you like. Press stop or off when done before standing up.
  • Spray or stream seems the most intense.
  • The spray for either setting will be in the anal area. On the highest setting you will feel a bit violated!
  • Push stop when finished. If you stand up while the spray is still going you might end up with a wet back and clothing.
  • Many toilets have two flush controls. A small flush (for pee) may have a symbol by it like this 小 an a big flush for solids may have a symbol like this 大.

Guide to Japanese Sinks

sinkThere really isn’t much to know about the sinks. They usually have motion sensors to start and stop water flow. Some have soap dispensers and some not. They are much like those found in the US and Europe. You usually will have an air dryer or paper towels for drying hands. I doubt you will ever seen a public hand towel. It seems hand towels in all of Asia are viewed as extremely unsanitary. For example in Taiwan you will never see hand towels in any bathrooms and it is rare that you will see paper towels or even air dryers. Most Taiwan bathrooms leave you to let your hands dry naturally or be forced to wipe them on your clothing. It is the norm and you just have to get used to it or prepare your own solution for the situation if you are in Taiwan for any length of time.

Guide to Japanese Air Hand Dryers

hand_dryerWow! I am very impressed with the hand dryers in Japan. I saw one of these in an airport in the USA somewhere. I think it was in Dallas. Anyway, they are motion sensitive. The hand dryers will be near the door or somewhere around the sinks where you might expect paper towel dispensers to be located. You just spread your fingers out on both hands and hang them in the slot. Air will be blown both directions through your fingers and across the surfaces of the hands. It only takes a few seconds to dry wet hands. Usually they even have a blue light that comes on to visually indicate the dryer is active.


  1. Wow amazing blog! It was really helpful! I will remember it for when I go to japan once in my life!!!!! THANKS!

    • thanks for the compliment. I hope you enjoy your experience in Japan!


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