Know Before You Go (in Japan)

Japanese restroom pictogramIt’s a tired cliché to talk about contrasts in the context of travel writing.

But in the case of restrooms in Japan there is a huge contrast between the so-called “Western toilet” versus the “Japanese toilet.”

On the one hand you will find the super high tech Toto washlet toilet seat.

This toilet has a motion sensor that lifts the lid when you approach and a heated seat for comfort.  It has a washer for your bottom and and a dryer to boot.  You can flush the toilet by waving your hand over a sensor.  The toilet seat may even play a recorded flushing sound for modesty purposes.

Restrooms equipped with these toilets are deemed “Western.”

Kyoto's bathroom instructions
City of Kyoto’s bathroom instructions

On the other hand, there is the glorified squat toilet.

This is basically a hole in the ground dressed up with a ceramic basin.  These toilets are labeled “Japanese toilets.”  You can find a good picture of a “Japanese toilet” on the RocketNews 24 website.

The Most Important Advice You’ll Ever Hear About Travel to Japan

Japan is replete with public restrooms.  You’ll find clean restrooms in parks, restaurants, museums, department stores, train stations, and on trains.

If you want to avoid “Japanese toilets” here’s what to do:

“Skip the ladies room or the mens room and head for the unisex handicapped restroom.

The handicapped restroom is very likely equipped with a “Western toilet.”

That’s it.  This bit of information offered by my sister-in-law was the most valuable piece of advice we received about travel in Japan!

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