How To Use A Japanese Toilet 101

If you are going to Japan, you better get schooled on how to use a Japanese toilet. If you think you are going to just wing it, believe me, you won’t! My friends already had a share of their problems. 

The Japanese take the whole toilet routine very seriously and you will notice they have several buttons, symbols, functions, and whatnot. This even goes for Japanese washing machines. So if you don’t know how to use one, better take a quick crash course on that as well before going to Japan! 

If you are considering taking Japanese lessons just to understand how to use a Japanese toilet, worry not, cos this article should help you decipher all of that. 

Why are Japanese toilets so complicated?

Japanese toilets are actually quite fun and a real experience. They have so many features that you will end up spending more time than necessary, just trying out each of these features. But, this is what makes them complicated as well. You need to first figure out what each and every symbol means and how you can use the button. 

Related: Check out these Japanese cleaning products to keep your toilets, floors, and all other surfaces squeaky clean!

Difference between Western toilets and Japanese Toilets

The two toilets don’t look any different. We are so used to the toilet paper system with western toilets and frankly, everything is just so straightforward – you poop, wipe, flush and you’re out of there. Japanese toilets also kinda have you do the same stuff but with some additional steps.

Also, instead of wiping, you wash. Before you scrunch your face, let me assure you, washing is much healthier than wiping. Learn from the Japanese!

How to find out where the toilet is?

This is the most important, in my opinion. If you don’t know where the toilet is, the rest of the article is pointless, isn’t it? Use the words “toirewa doko desuka?” to ask where the toilet is. 

Next, you need to walk into the toilet meant for your gender. To save you the embarrassment of walking in on the other sex, look at these symbols carefully:

“男” stands for men, while the “女” symbol stands for women.

But, most toilets will have a male and a female icon to save you the trouble.

Since you have the basics decoded, let’s move on to how to use a Japanese toilet, step by step:

How To Use A Japanese Toilet

  • Step 1:  Where do you go?

Okay, so you first need to know where to go. Called “toire” in Japanese, toilets can be found in most public spaces including convenience stores. Look for the 様式 symbol, which stands for Western toilet. 

  • Step 2: Disinfect:

Covid or no Covid, the Japanese believe in disinfecting the toilet seats before they use it. And that is such a good habit, don’t you think so? 

Most modern and urban Japanese cities have a disinfectant dispenser installed. Simply fold up a few sheets of toilet paper, spray the disinfectant on it and wipe your toilet seat before you plonk yourself there. 

  • Step 3: Warm your bum:

If you live in a country where winters get so cold that you dread placing your bum on the freezing toilet seat, you will thank the Japanese for having that covered. Japanese toilet seats are warmed, giving you some real pleasuring and comfortable pooping times. Now, that does not mean that you can settle down there with a mag while there is a line-up outside!

  • Step 4: Start The Sound Simulator

I was serious when I said the Japanese have you covered. Sometimes, when answering nature’s call, it can make unpleasant noises that can be quite embarrassing. Look for the “音” symbol that makes the flushing noise even when you are not flushing. That covers up all the grunts and other noises, saving you from going red in the face!

However, if that gets a bit annoying, you can always turn it off by pressing the stop button. 

  • Step 5: FLUSH

Can you imagine the panic and dread that can spread through your heart and stomach when you finish and can’t figure out which button flushes the toilet? Don’t worry. The flush button, like most western toilets, is usually behind on the wall.

If there is nothing there, look on the side for a small panel. While most urban toilets are fitted with sensors and will flush automatically, there are quite a few across the country that require to be flushed manually.

Like most western toilets, Japanese toilet flushes also give you the option of going half flush to save water or full flush. Look for these symbols:  小 for the water saving flush and 大 for the full flush. You might even find a flush that is activated by a sensor. Simply wave in front of it to flush away everything. 

  • Step 6: Wash, don’t wipe:

Well, you can wipe if you want, but do give the good old bidet a try before you rule it out altogether. And doctors across the world are recommending going the Japanese way, saying it is more hygienic. Just saying.

Japanese bidets come with a power saving feature as well in many newer toilets. They wash in warm water, so you don’t freeze your bum off in the winter.

But even the bidet comes with different spots that you can target, like the front and the back. Look for the おしり (called oshiri) symbol if you’ve finished and you want your bum washed clean.

Specially designed for women, the ビデ (called bidet) symbol gives the front a cleansing. Sometimes you don’t want the pressure and just want a gentle cleansing with some warm water. In this case, use the button with the やわらか (called yawaraka) symbol. 

It doesn’t stop there, though. A lot of Japanese toilets also come with additional functions where you can control the pressure of the water, and the direction the bidet is pointing in, to get a more accurate cleaning (I told you this is serious business).

Look for the 水勢 (called suisei) to control the pressure of the water hitting you. If it does not feel positioned quite right, you can use the button that has the 位置 symbol (called ichi) to adjust the position.

Now how do you control these? Look for the arrow symbols to navigate these. Kinda like playing a video game. This symbol – 低 stands for “low”, while this one 高  stands for high. If you want it weaker, choose this 弱 symbol and this one 強 for a stronger jet. 

Now the real question. How do you stop? Or say you hit the wrong button and don’t like the way it feels. Simply hit the “Stop” button, which goes by this symbol – 止, and you’re done. 

  • Step 7: Wipe afterwards:

The Japanese also use toilet paper as much as the West, though it is only to pat dry after you wash with the bidet. So if you absolutely don’t want to give the bidet a try, you do have the option of wiping.

However, if you like the bidet, go ahead and tear off a few sheets of the toilet paper to dry yourself, and drop the used paper directly inside the toilet bowl. As mentioned earlier, toilet paper is also used to wipe down the toilet seat with a disinfectant before you start.

Just remember to drop it only inside the bowl and not in the trash can. You can throw the rest of the garbage in the small trash can inside every toilet cubicle.

  • Step 8: Squatting toilet:

While most developed Japanese cities have the sitting down, western style toilets, there are still some villages and towns in Japan that use the squatting toilet.

Scientifically, this is healthier for you cos you get to exercise your thigh muscles, but for a first timer, it can be a bit intimidating. It’s not that hard, all you need to do is, squat and do your job. Just make sure you face away from the door and towards the toilet.

These toilets may have a flush that is on the floor or on the wall. Just like you would do for the western toilets, look around for a lever or the symbol to flush the toilet. 

Some extras that are good to know before you go:

  • Emergency buttons:

Usually found in the disabled toilets, but these days found in every single toilet to help the disabled or anybody in the case of an emergency. The emergency call button is placed next to the flush panel, so it can get a bit confusing.

It is good to know that this exists so that you don’t press the wrong button, if you simply want to flush. So, stay away from the 非常 symbol, unless you really get sick and you need help from a uniformed person rushing to your rescue.

And no, not understanding which symbol stands for “flush” or how to use the bidet is not considered an emergency. 

  • Bathroom slippers:

In the West, bathroom slippers are referred to as any slippers that are generally worn at home, but the Japanese use the bathroom slippers ONLY in the toilet and bathroom to avoid spreading infection around the house. Be very careful about using these inside the toilet and NEVER stepping out with these. 

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