The history of toilets in Japan is long and rather extensive - as far as toilet history can go.
Toire is the abbreviated Japanese word for "toilet" in English. In fact, the unofficial Japanese Toilet Day is November 11th or 10/11 which can be read as ii-to(ire) which means "good toilet."
Japanese love their toilets.
Speaking of toilets, be sure to read our Tips on How to Avoid Food Poisoning and Diarrhea when Travelling; or find out about Finland's funny toilet situation:Need to Pee in Finland? Send a Text Message! or read up on 5 Tips on How To Pee All Over the World.
Afraid of People Hearing You Pee?
Since the flush toilet's debut, Japanese women would flush the toilet while they were peeing because they were embarrassed when others heard them pee. Obviously, this wasted a lot of water. Thus, in the 1980's, the Japanese government issued a campaign to get women to stop flushing unnecessarily - but they just wouldn't stop. The answer? Devices like the Sound Princess: a radio-like device that is activated at the push of a button or by motion. When activated, the sound of flushing is simulated. These devices are installed in most new women's washrooms.
The Traditional Japanese Toilet: The Squat Toilet
As with many countries in the world, the squat toilet has been the traditional toilet used by the Japanese for hundreds of years. These are still very common throughout Japan but especially in public facilities like schools, temples, train stations, restaurants, and etc. They vary from very basic to fancier versions with flushing systems.
How to Pee in Japan
When walking into the stall, remain standing and facing the back of the stall. Step as close to the wall as possible and hold the vertical pipe for balance. If you don't stand close enough to the wall, you're likely to cause some splashing. Once you're done, there are usually two options to flush: a small flush or a big flush, depending on what you need to flush!
It has been said that squat toilets are more hygienic than flush toilets because it minimizes contact with a toilet seat. Squat toilets also use less water than flush toilets and so are better for the environment.
The Japanese Bidet, Washlet or Woshuretto
As of 2004, more than 50% of Japanese households had bidet toilets installed in their bathrooms - exceeding the number of personal computers per household. Bidets or washlets are like flush toilets but are much more high-tech than the average flush toilet.
The Japanese bidet includes features to further enhance one's bathroom experience by providing a quick cleaning of your derriere afterwards. Depending on the different models, Japanese bidets can include self cleaning water jet nozzles for cleaning, water jet pressure controls, a blow dryer, seat heating, massage options, and automatic flushing and lid controls.
Some of today's models play music to relax one's muscles so they can more easily go to the bathroom. Newest features also include medical sensors that analyze urine to measure blood pressure, body fat content and health status.
It has also been said that the washlet or bidet would be able to replace the use of toilet paper and help to improve hemorrhoids and constipation.
While 99% of these are used by men today, female urinals used to be popular in Japan. When wearing kimonos, underwear would not be worn. Thus, women would also stand to urinate. These are no longer used as most wear underwear under their kimonos today.
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Gizelle Lau is a freelance writer & photographer in Toronto, Canada with a passion for food and travel.
Located: Toronto Canada
Likes: cities, culture, food/wine, paths-less-travelled, photography, wildlife