Japanese toilets are different. This is mine. It’s why Japanese often say “I’m going to the toilet” rather than “I’m going to the bathroom.”
The Japanese toilet a small room that feels as cramped as it looks. Not that you need much room to do your business, but I’ve hit my head on the door a few times getting up. Fortunately, what it lacks in space it apologizes for with other conveniences.
This is a toilet seat with benefits. The first thing you notice upon sitting down on a real Japanese toilet is the heated seat. This is the only function that I use, though I have taken advantage of the oshiri (butt) wash feature when I forget to buy toilet paper.
The bidet–that’s “bi-de”–is for ladies. There’s a massage feature that alternates water pressure, if you’re into that. You even can change the temperature of both seat and water, then switch to energy saving mode if you’re feeling conservative, but not enough to sacrifice a heated Japanese toilet seat. Adding to this eco-friendly feature is the water-saving and completely useless small flush (the Japanese on top of the handle) instead of a large flush (bottom.) I should add that my particular toilet is reversed from normal handles. I don’t know why. Maybe they heard I was coming.
There are other, better toilets. If you go to a high-class restaurant, you might get to use one. It will open automatically upon entry and play soothing sounds to cover up…yours. In nicer department stores, while the toilet might be more normal, you will be provided sanitary spray to sanitize the toilet seat before you sit down, removing any need to armor your butt with a protective layer of Japanese toilet paper (which is longer than the U.S. stuff) over the seat.
But, don’t expect every toilet to be like this. Some older buildings will have toilets that look like they belong in airplanes. And some public bathrooms are very public.
Then there are the Japanese squatting toilets.
I don’t recommend attempting these. Some stalls will give you a bar to cling to while you squat, but most will not. You are stuck with either maintaining absolute perfect balance or stabilizing yourself on the plumbing. Neither is much fun. It’s rather uncomfortable for Japanese as well. Most Japanese I’ve spoken with on the subject tell me they would prefer sitting to the squatting toilets. That said, if you go to a department store or rest stop there will likely be a choice between the two. Or not.
Before I came here I heard a lot of people saying that a lot of Japanese bathrooms won’t offer toilet paper, and that you have to bring your own. So far, I have never been in a bathroom that didn’t. I have, however, been in many that did not offer paper towels or soap. That can be a problem. Unless you don’t wash you hands. Then it’s okay.
But besides the actual facilities, there are other things you should know about bathrooms here.
Regarding cleaning staff. If the building janitors are Japanese Old Ladies, they will likely come into the bathroom unannounced and won’t care if you are a man or woman or young or old or doing your business or not. They’ll sweep right under the door and around the toilet if you are in the stall and right beside your feet as you use the urinal. There is no helping this. Old ladies here don’t care about you or your feelings so you’d better just shut up and get out of their way. Guys, if you’re at the urinal and they come in, just lean in a little more. Or not.
Also, if you do make any Japanese friends and are lucky enough to get invited to their house, there is a bit of bathroom etiquette. Just like you take your shoes off before coming into a Japanese house, you should wear the bathroom slippers in the bathroom. Don’t forget to take them off after you finish! If you live here, you should also buy a pair and place them in your bathroom so your Japanese friends won’t think you’re gross. Whether you actually choose to wear them though is up to you. Just don’t tell your friends that you don’t.