I have recently decided that because this blog is primarily followed by my own family and friends, who, unlike me, do not spend hours reading about life in Japan via expat blogs on a daily basis, I should cover some things that one might take for granted until they spend some time abroad. Everyday things that you might have to think twice about, or even relearn, because they are done differently in your new home.
Today I am going to talk a bit about toilets in Japan.
Yes, toilets. Public bathrooms are plentiful in Japan, and can even be found in playgrounds. Rarely do I fret if we leave home and Ansel needs a bathroom, because one is almost always within a moment’s reach. Back at home in the U.S., if we were at the playground and found ourselves needing to use a restroom, we would have to rush home, guiltily waddle into a retail establishment and sneak into their restroom (ask them for a key, or even buy something first), or find a bush. I am grateful to be living in a place where bathrooms can be found just about everywhere, especially as a mother of a young child who was still being potty trained when I arrived. Many public women’s restrooms even have a small urinal for young male children to use when accompanying mom in the bathroom. Some have small toilets for kids.
Bathrooms are different here than they are in the United States.
When I enter a public restroom and find a toilet like this, I exhale a great sigh of relief
Versus one like this
I have never been in a house with a squat toilet, but I know they exist. In public restrooms, however, you find both (often within the same restroom). Sometimes the door is marked “Western Toilet” or “Squat Toilet,” sometimes it is not. Squat toilets are fine, don’t get me wrong. I have heard of the wonderful health benefits associated with using squat toilets because of correct body positioning and such, but until you are trying to balance over one of these wearing a large winter jacket, heels, and/or other layers while holding several bags that you do not want to touch the urine soaked floor, you might hold them in higher regard than I do.
Western toilets can be quite complicated in Japan.
This toilet has a washlet bidet. This device heats the seat and has self-cleaning bidet functions that are user controlled. You can look at Japanese toilets on Youtube for what I am sure will be hours of people trying to figure these controls out and getting sprayed by spitting toilets. In reality, they aren’t that complicated (just don’t push any buttons while standing and you will be fine). Some of them even have a ‘powerful deodorizer’ button.
Most bathroom stalls have a ‘flushing sound’ button (some are automatic and go off the entire time you are in there for your convenience) that allows users to ‘go’ discretely. They look like this:
I have not encountered a bathroom in Japan that has warm water at the hand washing sink. Even the bathroom in my home has a cold water basin.
Restrooms rarely have paper towels for hand drying, though they do sometimes have hand dryers that blow only cold air. People carry their own hand towels for this reason, and there are even entire stores devoted to selling them. Some people carry an ordinary cloth around, but with designer towels by Cath Kidson, Louis Vuitton, Disney, and Studio Ghibli (just to name a few), there are many options to choose from.
In addition to this, ‘family restrooms’ can often be found outside of the typical men’s and women’s restrooms, and are designed to be used by handicap persons and families alike. Sometimes these rooms contain large pull down beds for dressing babies and young children, resting, or what ever one might do with a weird bed in a public bathroom. These restrooms are usually pretty clean, sometimes not so much, but never disgusting (in my experience).
So there you have it: more than you ever cared to know about restrooms in Japan! I could probably talk more about this, but I am not sure any of you care enough about toilets to even read this far 🙂
If there is something that you want to know about life in Japan, please let me know in the comments (here or on facebook) and I will consider posting about it. I hope to record my daily bicycle ride from home to Ansel’s school for you all soon so that I can talk a bit about riding a bicycle in Fukuoka.