Visitors to Japan are often overawed by the high-tech gadgetry and state-of-the-art technology all pervasive in Japanese society. It comes as no surprise that westerners are uncertain when approaching a Japanese toilet, and bewildered by the array of settings and features. Rest assured, the Japanese do simplicity and ease of operation as well as anyone, and their toilets are designed to satisfy everyone.
Upon initial inspection, a Japanese toilet seat can seem intimidating. After all, there are buttons, lights and sounds, plus characters in a foreign language and unfamiliar icons. Randomly pushing buttons seems like a game of chance that could possibly result in an unwelcome splash or blast of water where it doesn’t belong.
In reality, Japanese toilets are almost fully automated, easy to use, and hygienic. There are variations from one model to the next, but they all have similar functions. Let’s get started overcoming the cultural divide. For the purpose of this exercise we will consider the toilet has been manufactured for western users.
Using the toilet
There really is nothing to be afraid of here. Take a seat as you normally would on a regular toilet. There is no need to set the control panel or push any buttons as the toilet will ‘wake up’ by itself when it senses someone sitting on it. The heated seat can be turned on or off and the temperature adjusted.
Using the wash function
You will be using either a mounted control panel or remote control to use the functions. When washing, most users of Japanese toilets prefer the cleansing spray of water in lieu of toilet paper. The basic ‘wash’ function will release the spray nozzle under the seat and begin the cleaning process. Once your behind is washed with water it will take just a little paper for a final drying. If you are a first time user, you might like to press the minus button for weaker water pressure until you are used to the sensation. Some Japanese toilets even have a hot air dryer for your behind as an alternative to toilet paper.
Personalise the settings
When you become a little more comfortable in your new toilet surroundings, it’s worth experimenting with some basic spray settings. The three most common cleaning settings allow you to adjust water pressure, water temperature and nozzle positioning. Every person is a different shape and size, with varying degrees of tenderness and comfort levels. You can adjust your Japanese toilet seat to suit your own preferences.
Flushing the toilet
Before searching in vain for some obscure setting that allows you to flush the toilet, try the obvious. Some things are universal, and many Japanese toilets have a flush lever or button similar to those found on western toilets. Some models come with a hand symbol sensor, and flushing is as simple as placing your hand over the sensor.
Depending on the advanced nature of the toilet, there may be many other settings designed for your comfort, but the above guidelines are enough to get anyone started.
For those of you who need to learn more about Japanese toilet symbols, this translation table might help.
Japanese toilet manufacturers are increasingly showcasing their products in western countries, with try before you buy toilet opportunities at hotels and public places. Importers are also well versed in the technology, and showroom advice is available. Whether you are in Japan or overseas you are now ready to visit any Japanese restroom with the self-assured confidence of an expert user.