Japanese Toilets and Other Odds and Ends

Please note that the following observations are mine alone, based on only a few days in Japan. I’m sure that these generalities can be easily disproven on many levels. Again, just my personal observations.

1. When you’re traveling, you have to get used to going to the bathroom in lots of public places. On our recent trip, that often meant train stations. The public bathrooms in Japan are immaculate and many of them feature a wonderful product know as the Toto toilet. Totos aren’t your average toilet. When you sit down, you’ll notice what seems to be an armrest on one side. Look closely and you’ll see dials and buttons. These controls operate features that are unfamiliar to most Americans. You see, these toilets have additional water jets–one that will duplicate a bidet and  one that will…hmmmm….wash your butt. The dials control the water pressure and temperature.

I totally want a Toto, but they cost around $3,000 so I don’t think Santa will be putting one under my tree.

But here’s a contradiction–once you leave the stall with your freshly washed behind, you notice that there’s no soap and no towels and no hot water.  The best you can do is to rinse your hands with cold water and then rub them on your pants. That’s right–your rear end is cleaner than your hands after a visit to a Japanese railway station bathroom.

2. As I said earlier, Japan is immaculate. But garbage cans are very hard to find. There are lots of recycling bins for plastic and aluminum, but no place to put regular garbage. On our last afternoon we were catching our breath and repacking our backpacks in the hotel lobby. Husband needed to discard an empty plum wine bottle and set off to find a garbage can. He looked and looked (the lobby was immense). One hotel worker came to his assistance. Then there were two. In all, three people helped him throw away his empty bottle…all apologising the entire time. I don’t know how a country that’s so clean can have so few places to put garbage.

3. Most Japanese people are quite small by American standards. The younger ones are definitely larger than their parents and grandparents, but I saw some of the tiniest people I’ve ever seen. However, when we were visiting some of the ancient temples and shrines, we walked up some of the steepest, tallest steps I’ve ever been on. I just measured the steps in my house–7.5 inches. I’m guessing that the ancient steps in Japan were at least 10 inches. They were a stretch for my long legs…I can’t imagine how the diminutive monks of old managed them.

4. Husband frequently travels on business to China and Japan and one of his observations is that the people living there never get hot. Everytime we sat on a train or went into our hotel room we felt like we were in a furnace. The temperature was around 60 degrees F–perfect for sightseeing. We were walking around in shirt sleeves and light fleeces. All around us though, people were bundled up in hats, coats, scarves and gloves.

5. There were Christmas decorations everywhere, including our hotel. Not sure why these devotees of Buddha and Shinotism are decking the halls, but it looked pretty.


So there you have my thoughts on Japan. It was a wonderful place to visit, and there’s lots more to see. It will never replace France as my favorite place. but if you have the chance to go, by all means, do. Just remember to take a buddy if you visit an onsen.


Filed under Travel

9 responses to “Japanese Toilets and Other Odds and Ends

  1. Julie Fisher

    Obvious, obvious, Cindy. They wear coats so they can wipe their hands having visited the Toto. The steps are steep so that there is somewhere to put your empty plum wine bottles (under the steps). And of course they have Christmas decorations. You can run but you can’t hide from Santa Claus ANYWHERE ON THIS EARTH! Now, surely, I have indeed proven that you must take me with you on any future trips. I may not have the correct answers, but I do have answers.

  2. I was scared to death about the forthcoming bathroom report but it turned out to be a lot less nauseating that the food report. Imagine my relief. Wish like hell I could get to the Far East but I doubt it’ll ever happen. Sadly.

  3. Niece Whit

    Ok a Toto is now on my Christmas list! France should look into those…:)

  4. That’s because it’s giftmas, not Christmas.

  5. I was looking forward to the toilet report, because they’re often the juiciest of a trip. Clean? Hygienic? How disappointing (for me, obviously not for you).
    Perhaps you’re supposed to plunge your hands in the toilet at the same time as it’s rinsing your nether parts?
    When I worked in a residential facility for severely physically disabled people, they had these toilets too, and the rinse ended with a blast of hot air to dry your butt, so totally feasible to shove your hands in too…

  6. Oh, I’m going to have to look into the Toto.

    Love niece’s suggestion that the French need to look into them as well! Sure beats a hole in the ground.

  7. pat

    I just read your posts from Japan and they brought back memories of a trip my husband and I took in 1992. Our daughter had minored in Japanese in college, went to Japan to teach English and eventually married one of her adult students; they were living in Himeji (south-central Japan, not too far from Kobe) when we went to visit. In a small city, without many Western visitors, we were objects of great interest (glances quickly averted, of course) and a small child with his mother on the apartment elevator started screaming, “Gaijin, Gaijin (foreigner)” when he saw us. There were rice paddies next to the apartment complex and our daughter took us to a supermarket to do some food shopping. The entire store was immaculate, with beautiful displays of food (canteloupes at that time were $30.00 each) and an employee was handing out food samples which we dutifully tried. Hmm, rather chewy – our daughter told us it was raw squid – which totally did my husband in where food was concerned. There was so much raw fish everywhere we went that he had lost 10 lbs. by the time we left 10 days later.
    I loved the totally different culture and found the gardens and architecture of Kyoto to be so beautiful. My daughter and son-in-law moved to the U.S. in 1995 so we haven’t been back to Japan and my husband most definitely has no plans to return although I would love to go again some time.

  8. Michael

    I stumbled here. Been living in Japan for over 5 years and first wanna let you know that the Washlets (they are not called Toto’s that is just one manufacturer.. albeit the most popular) are much cheaper than 3000 dollars. I bought mine a the Seiyu Livin for about 16,000 yen (130 dollars current exchange) and installed it myself in my apartment.

    Wait until you run into the “squat toilets” which were the most common before the washlets. You find them in older bathrooms and park public bathrooms.

    If you are gonna be here for a bit longer and want to see some really nice Christmas lights I recommend the Tama Illumination (in Tama Center on the Keio line in Tokyo). It is unbelievable!


  9. Michael

    Ohh and if you really want a washlet send me an email and Ill tell you were you can get one. They are really simple to install at home and are awesome. I honestly cant live without it now and dread going to the bathroom where there isnt one.

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