Anybody who has ever travelled to Japan will tell you that going to the bathroom there is nothing like going to be bathroom here in North America. Fearless ICBE International Liaison Daniel provides us with an actual picture of an actual Japanese bathroom with a kimono and a bajillion buttons. No, we don’t have a clue how it works!
Update! Loyal reader Michelle, an American currently living in Japan, relates her own experiences with Japanese toilets…
There are two different types of toilets here in Japan, the “squatty-potties” and the “western-styles.” I happen to prefer the squatty potties, and it’s been written that squatting is actually healthier for the body. It doesn’t feel good to us Americans, but that’s because we slouch all the time in couches and office chairs, and our muscles are all out of shape. For those accustomed to sitting on the floor, this is really quite comfortable. I can never forget a scene from the Tom Selleck movie, Mr. Baseball, where he said something about his Japanese couch that went like this, “You tell me how to talk, and how to wear my mustache, next you’re going to tell me is how to take a crap.” Then he walked into the bathroom, and you hear him yell something like, “Help, I need someone to tell me how to take a crap!” A lot of Americans stress over which way to face. The truth is that you face the hood of the squatty-potty, but the secret is that as long as you can reach the toilet paper, no one will ever know if you did it wrong. I happen to prefer these because it’s easier not to come in contact with anything, and as long as you aren’t wearing anything long and ridiculous like a wedding dress or coveralls, it’s much easier to tuck your clothes around yourself so they don’t fall into the water. And often times, there is no water until you pee or flush, anyway. But, I am not most Americans. Nah, it’s a sad thing to say, but a large percentage of us military folk are pretty squeamish. Imagine a tour bus full of skiers and snowboarders. Daredevils, right? Wrong! When the tour bus stops at the rest-stop, it is customary to see a long line of females lined up outside a restroom with rows of empty stalls. They’re all waiting for the one western style toilet. The Japanese ladies have to walk around to enter the restroom. It’s really quite embarrassing.
Getting back to your picture, this toilet is probably located in a hotel room, as it’s pretty standard for them to leave a kimono in the room for use around the hotel. However, the layout is pretty typical of a stall in a public restroom. They often have that wide and blessedly convenient shelf behind the toilet. Sometimes, you’ll have a sink either located next to the toilet, or on top of the tank itself. And the sink will be rigged to the toilet, so that the water turns on when you flush for hand washing. Although, soap and towels are rarely inside the stall. The toilet paper rolls are pretty standard, and the rectangle under them is the garbage can. The buttons in your picture, well the top one on the wall behind the toilet is actually not a button, but a rubber stopper. No slamming of the toilet seats, please. The silver knob to the left is for flushing. You can’t see it in this picture, but often times they have little characters on the wall next to the knob. If you turn it one way, the toilet will flush using only a little water, and if you turn it the other, a lot of water will come out. I can never remember which is which. Ok, getting to the row of buttons next to the tank. That’s your bidet settings. It varies from model to model. Usually, there’s an on and off button, and hot and cold water selection, and the dial is to adjust the angle where the water will splash. You have to actually be sitting on the toilet for the bidet to work. And if you decide to full around with the buttons and nothing happens, be sure to wait a few minutes before standing up. There’s nothing worse than looking like you peed yourself because the bidet finally decided to kick in as you were in the process of standing up! Other models will feature the famous heated toilet seat. Ah!! I love that. There is nothing better than coming in from the cold after a day of skiing, and placing your cold butt cheeks on something warm. Some people think like me. Most American men do not. They feel warm toilet seat beneath them, and think of the person who must have just finished sitting there while taking a dump. Good ol’ American squeamishness, once again. And every once in awhile, you’ll come across something they call the Princess setting, as it’s mostly found in female restrooms. This button makes the sound of flushing without actually wasting water on an actual flush. Aha! Japanese squeamishness……but I’ve used this too!
It’s kinda luck of the draw as far as hand-washing goes. It is always a good idea to take hand-sanitizer with you on road trips, as the public bathrooms often lack soap. I can’t understand why that is so in a country where cleanliness is prized. But it’s not uncommon to see the Japanese carrying around washcloths and hankies for just such a purpose. Often times the various businesses will hand out little packets of Kleenex with their logo on the wrapper. Other bathrooms are technologically savvy. The sinks on the bullet train have a motion detector for not only the water, but also for the soap, and the blow-dryer….yes, all coming out from the sink!! Other hand dryers look like little recessed boxes. You place your hands inside, and slowly draw them out. About six seconds later, dry hands! Very efficient, but it’s fun to laugh at the recent arrivals here who don’t understand what the square thing is and are too scared to go near it!!