• Kana Wu

Japanese Public Restrooms: one of the things that perplex me in Japan.

You might be thinking that I’m joking. But no, I’m not. Japanese public restrooms always amaze and puzzle me in many ways.

So, just keep reading this article.

Most public restrooms in Japan are clean, smell fresh, and well-maintained, even the ones in busy train stations. Only a couple times, I found a dirty and foul-smelling restroom. In terms of cleanliness, maybe only Singapore could beat Japan.

In some modern restrooms, the stall’s doors are automatically opened. Some toilets have automatic seats that can be lowered or raised when you are near. Sometimes, they come with a warm seat, so you would feel good and comfortable in winter. Further, there is a ‘privacy’ button with a music note icon, which is useful to camouflage any embarrassing sound we make. So, next time, if you happen to be in a public restroom, waiting for your turn, and then you hear birds chirping or ocean waves or water flowing coming from the stall for sometimes, you’d know why.

Although many things are modern in Japan, it never crossed my mind that I would see old squatter toilets. The first one was inside a restaurant near the Nishiki market. After that, I found more, mostly in some old restrooms.

The squatting toilet is not something I like. However, it seems to me that Japanese women prefer the squatter to the sitting toilet (sorry if I’m wrong). One time, I happened to be in the same restroom with an old lady. There were only two stalls; a squatter toilet and a sitting toilet. She persisted in taking the first one and told me to use the second one, which I took gladly. It was amazed me that the old lady didn’t have any issue with using the toilet in such a small narrow stall. I didn’t like the toilet because I had a hard time keeping my elbows or body from hitting the wall. No wonder ladies in the queuing always gave me a smile each time I exited the stall. They could already guess it wasn’t a local person inside.

Another thing that baffled me was when I found no soap, toilet paper, or paper towel (or hand dryer). In a few narrow and small restrooms, I didn’t find a sink to wash my hands. I guess it might be done to save money and reduce paper usage since toilets and squatters are automatically flushed. It was kind of surprising and inconvenient for those who did not come prepared. Good thing, when I travel, I always bring a travel size bottle of antibacterial, wet wipes, and facial tissues, so I’m ready in any unexpected situation like that.

So, Japan is always a fascinating place to visit. You could find something amazing like talking robots or amazing virtual reality studios, and something puzzling like no soap or sink in a restroom.

One of the biggest and modern Japanese restrooms I've ever seen in Tokyo. (Location: Narita Airport)