Japan has a special relationship to toilets. Whether it be the belief in a toilet god, blogging about toilets visited, or sites dedicated to ranking the toilets of Japan, Japanese people seem to display a surprising passion for the common toilet.
I once asked a guy what he feared most about traveling abroad and he surprised me when he replied, “Toilets.”
What is the background? Let’s investigate this fascination…..
There is a long history of respecting toilets
In you live in Japan, odds are there is a god residing in your toilet. And here is the music video:
Toilets collect everything we eat, and we also make ourselves vulnerable when we use them. These are some of the supposed reasons for having a toilet god. Keeping your toilet clean is respecting this deity.
You know what they say, cleanliness is next to godliness.
Especially true if there happens to be a god in your toilet!
Unnecessarily nice toilet paper
Treat yourself to an artistic experience on your toilet. Hanabisho only makes 150 rolls of this toilet paper a day. They are made out of traditional Japanese paper, washi. But the paper has been engineered to be gentle to the touch.
Better yet, treat your loved one to it! One set of 8 rolls is just 10,800 yen on Amazon.
There are all types of toilet paper available as well…
- Hello Kitty wedding gift ones
- Ones that provide information about how to avoid being conned
- Toilet paper that teaches you English
- Toilet paper that teaches you earthquake preparedness
- And many more….
If you have ever encountered a nice, new toilet in Japan you might have noticed that it came with a robot-like control panel:
This is a Washlet, produced by TOTO. Washlets can be added to almost any toilet. They usually come with features like a rear spray, a bidet, and an Otohime (I describe this below). They are mostly sold in Japan, so they can be a pretty big point of interest to foreign visitors.
True story: when my family came to Japan to visit me, our hotel room had a washlet in it and my brother was intrigued by all the buttons. He wanted to see it in action without sacrificing his butt being sprayed so he pushed the button and just stepped back (DO NOT DO THIS).
Visual approximation of events ↑
Well, unfortunately for Washlet fans, not every toilet has this control panel on it. You can, however, buy your very own portable version of the Washlet.
Yay! Conservation of toilet paper! Also less chance of chafing delicate skin…
Otohime – The Sound that Saves Your Dignity and the Environment
If you go to the women’s toilets like me you might figure out what the Otohime is pretty quickly.
Japanese women are pretty embarrassed about the fact that they expel bodily waste just like the rest of us. To try and hide the terrible, terrible truth many women in Japan would flush CONTINUOUSLY. Each flush was about 10-15 liters of water at the time (the time before Otohime, pre-1988).
This was obviously a terrible waste of resources. TOTO decided to make an electronic flushing-noise maker and named it the “Otohime” (lit. “sound princess”). Panasonic then decided to install Otohime in every bathroom in all of their 43 offices.
Panasonic reported that they saved 64 MILLION YEN worth of water that year.
It is safe to say that is the reason why the Otohime has found its way into more bathrooms in Japan than even the Washlet bidet system.
Public Luxury Facilities
Public toilets in Japan were not always the oasis-like paradise that many are today. They used to be more largely dominated by Japanese squat toilets. Japanese squat toilets are totally fine if clean, but put them in the public toilet setting and they can get pretty dirty, pretty quickly. There is usually a mystery substance on the ground around them ( is it? or isn’t it?…..it usually is what you think).
Nowadays the squat toilet has a minimal presence but still plagues public restrooms because of the collective unwillingness to use them, even in times of need (long restroom line).
All that aside, public restrooms have been undergoing an amazing renaissance.
In the attempt to draw more young women customers, department stores are in a magnificent restroom arms-race for who can have the nicest toilets/powder room facilities.
The Hankyu Department Store’s Umeda powder room.
I don’t mind this toilet revolution AT ALL.
Have you ever had any realizations about Japanese toilets that stumped or shocked you?
I would love to hear them! (if they are PG…)