Japanese Toilet Misadventures and Tips


We all need toilets. They are a pretty important part of our daily lives. Whether standing, sitting or squatting, toilets are something we use inside and outside the home. Luckily Japan has more than its fair share of these essential items.

Japan is probably known as being home to the “Cadillac of toilets.” Seats are heated, they may pop up and down automatic, water squirts here and there; they are great.

The fancy, hi-tech toilets Japan has built it’s cultural reputation on!

Another great thing when traveling to Japan is the fact that you don’t have to deal with pay toilets. No matter where you go, they are free to use. Department stores have public toilets as do supermarkets, coffee shops and of course, the ever-present convenience stores or “conbinis.”

The toilets I’ve already mentioned are normally quite clean and come with toilet paper, hand soap and hot air hand driers.

Be warner however…things may not always be so nice though.

If you ever find yourself in a public park for sightseeing or play, its probably safe to assume that there will be a public toilet present. It may not be the nicest toilet you’ve encountered though. It may in fact be quite nasty. Depending on how busy the park may be, the toilet may only be cleaned once a week. There is a possibility that it gets cleaned daily, but if it’s a busy public park in a place like Tokyo or Osaka, the sheer numbers of people using it will make for a pretty rancid place!

Public toilet located in a park in Kobe, Japan.
The rather “fragrant” no water/no flush type urinals in the men’s room. 
Sinks for washing hand. Note the lack of mirrors or any way of drying your hands. 

There may not be toilet paper and there’s a chance that there may only be “Japanese style” or squatter toilets. These can be a challenge even for the youngest and fittest person to use if you don’t have the experience or proper technique. Normally these public toilets will have a handicapped washroom and that one will have a sit down “Western style” toilet. The level of cleanliness may also be questionable.

This “Japanese Style” squat toilet is actually equipped with toilet paper, but that may not always be the case. Remember to face that toilet paper dispenser when “doing your business.”
You can often find sit down “Western Style” toilets in the handicapped washroom. 

When coming to Japan you can make sure you’re prepared:

1. Make sure you carry a packet of tissue with you everywhere you go. You never know when you may need it. Even if you don’t, you may have travel mates or friends who will need that tissue in an emergency.

2. When using a squat toilet, pull your pants down, face the pipes, squat and make sure you don’t accidentally get anything on your pants or accidentally step into the toilet itself (it happens…the writer has personal experience with this when he was new to Japan).

3. Bring a small hand towel or cloth because most washrooms won’t have anything for you to dry your hands with after using the facilities.

4. Since many public washrooms in parks won’t even have hand soap, a small bottle of hand sanitizer may come in handy.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Japan without a vending machine located outside the washroom!


Enjoy your trip to Japan and “Happy toilet time!”




The writer:

Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.

Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev

Email: justjapanpodcast@gmail.com

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