Thursday, October 1, 2015

The thing about Japanese Toilets

Ok, I know, this might be a strange starting point for sharing my experiences in Japan. But I still have a pile of photos and videos to sort through and organize into something I would call 'good content', rather than just mass upload pictures from my phone.

If you are insatiably curious for a taste of Japanese non-bathroom related culture, you can check out the mini photo collages I posted during my trip on my Instagram account, @turner_sr

But until then, let's talk toilets.

First of all, at many points during my trip I thought to myself, I really need to take a picture of that toilet, but I always refrained from it because, I donno, taking pictures of toilets seems weird. But now I kind of regret not doing it.

I encountered three types of toilet on my trip, in separate locations, and in the instance of the public bathrooms of Narita International Airport, all three types at once. Thank god for airports and choices.

Narita airport was in fact the only point in the trip where I encountered regular old fashioned western toilets, much to my happiness. It was comforting to be able to pee without the awkward toilet anxiety of the past 10 days.

For the toilet weary traveler. A bathroom stall marked with a symbol like this probably indicates a western style toilet.

Now I sure you have all heard of the crazy Techno-Toilets of Tokyo (which would probably make a good band name or something). And the majority of the toilets I encountered were variations on this theme.


If you see the picture of the regular toilet, alongside the picture of the butt fountain, then elaborate toilet technology awaits you. And you should proceed with caution. Because if you think they have a thing for bidets in France, that's only because you haven't been to Japan.

I had heard enough horror stories about toilets spraying water sky high while flashing lights and singing songs before arriving in Japan to make me avoid pressing any of the many buttons on or around my toilets there.

Here's a sample of the kind of options you might see.


And as I didn't take any toilet pictures myself, I borrowed this one from Alaska Girl At Heart's visit to Narita. But you can see that the functionality is exceedingly complex... it also raises a conundrum for me.

You notice the blue 'Butt Fountain' button, when labeled in English it is called spray. The pink button, with the person (although more often than not it featured a woman) is labeled bidet. These two buttons were always colour co-ordinated blue and pink. Making me think, one is for girls and one is for boys.

Which in turn makes me think that the 'Butt' portion of the 'Butt Fountain' is not a butt at all, but something rather more (in the words of Jenna Marbles) Ball-Sac-ier.

Which then brings me to the conundrum of why they used this symbol to label the techno toilets in the women's bathroom at the airport?

Beyond me.

Anyways, lets get back on track, I never touched any of these buttons, preferring my toilets to be as inanimate  as possible, but that still doesn't mean I wasn't subjected to advance toilet functions against my will.

The first time I actually settled my wait onto a Japanese toilet (preferring of course to hover over strange toilets), I immediately launched myself back off of it. Because the seat itself activates a function, and in my moment of fear, surely the toilet was about to come to life. Turns out, sitting down on the toilets just turns on a flow of water into the bowl, for some reason.

But still, moment of terror.

Also, some of the toilet seats were heated. Which when you have a hotel room all to yourself, gives you the creepy sense that someone other than you was just sitting on your toilet (#toiletghosts).

Finally, I was bemused to see that in places with high incidences of foreign tourists (hotel lobby bathrooms in particular) the bathroom stalls all featured an emergency help button. I can only assume these buttons were installed in response to confused tourists flooding the bathrooms when they inadvertently turned the sprayers on when looking for the flush. Pro-tip, the flush may be located on the wall, far away from the toilet.

Now if that was not enough strange for you, I'd like to introduce you to the third style of toilet I encountered in Japan.


If the symbol looks like this.

This is what you can expect.


Oh yeah. And in some places, like the University Hospital Research building in Nagoya, this was the only option.

Yes I was in the women's bathroom. I double checked.

I can tell you one thing, I was really happy to see my crazy techno toilet when I got back to my hotel that night.

And that my friends is how you write over 860 words about toilets...which should tell you a thing or two about just how lasting an impression they left on me.

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