The Joy Of Japanese Toilets
November 29, 2013

The Joy Of Japanese Toilets

The idea that Japan is incredibly futuristic is something of a myth. Well, in some areas of life they undoubtedly are, but in other areas much less so. When it comes to toilets, though, things in Japan are definitely moving in the right direction. Yep, this is an article about toilets, so it may be a bit crude and distasteful. If you don’t go to the toilet, please look away now…

I think the drive for Japan’s gadget wizardry and fantastical creations comes from two things, ahead of a desire to be futuristic for its own sake. The first is the wish to build a powerful economy in a land with little space and without the vast natural resources of some parts of the world. Hi-tech industries are the answer. The second is the Japanese love a fantasy world, but that world is something to escape to, rather than be surrounded by all the time. It is escaped to only after everyday obligations and work have been taken care of. Those everyday obligations are quite traditional and backward looking, for example some social conventions. The workplaces, such as banks with their 1970s processes and offices that still love fax machines, are quite archaic too.

This juxtaposition of the near and ancient past alongside glimpses of the future is evident in Japanese toilets. It is not uncommon to find a typical Asian style squat toilet, basically just a hole in the ground, particularly in train station bathrooms. But the most common type of toilet is a Western-style ‘throne’ with added extras. It is the added extras that make going to the toilet in Japan so pleasurable. The heated toilet seat in winter is a must. The built-in electronic squirter (bidet), activated at the push of one of several buttons on the control pad next to the toilet seat, is a dream. We can then dry off with another button, and the speed and temperature of it all can be adjusted too.

More than two thirds of Japanese households, I am pleased to say including my own, have an electronic toilet. Some lucky ones have extra features, such as classical music output to relax the anus (Mendelssohn is apparently a favorite), a function to help older users stand up again, and Bluetooth app compatibility. The app allows people to raise and lower the toilet seat remotely, in case, for example, a man realizes he left it up. Before the fear of God takes hold, he can make sure it is down again before his partner uses the toilet.

It’s quite surprising to me how uncommon these kinds of toilets are in the West. I would have expected to see at least the most basic version that has the bidet and dryer by now. It seems barbaric to me these days when I come across a toilet that isn’t fitted with those simplest of hygienic functions. The idea of just using dry paper is quite, quite mad, when you think about it. Imagine if you somehow got dog poo on your body after a trip to the park – who among us would come home and think, ah a bit of dry paper should sort that out! Yeah, I know, dog poo is a bit worse, but still. Wiping filth off of us without even using water? I’ll take the Japanese option any day. But with that said, I’ll leave it there, in case anyone is planning on eating any time soon.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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John is a freelance writer from the UK, currently living in Japan and thoroughly enjoying their food and whiskey. His first novel, Three Little Boys, and his travel book, Following Football, are currently available on

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