Toilet Talk

Toilets are better in Japan. I’m not talking about traditional squat toilets, which supposedly provide health benefits but are in my opinion just uncomfortable (a word of advice to travelers: you are supposed to face forward when using these). I’m talking about the high-tech wonders that have become so famous for their numerous buttons and features. Where else can you control a toilet with this:


image from

That picture looks like it’s straight out of MTV cribs! But why would one need that many buttons to operate a toilet? I confess that I cannot actually answer this question. Alas, my knowledge of Japanese toilets is but(t)  juvenile compared to some of the high-tech bathroom businessmen and women no doubt frequenting the washrooms of this fine country. However, I can hopefully explain a couple of them.

Let’s start with the basic flush. This is not exclusive to Japan, but almost all Japanese toilets are equipped with a “large flush” button and a “small flush” button. You can tell which is which because the kanji character 大 for large will be on one and 小 for small will be on the other. You can actually see these two characters on top of the panel facing vertically in the photo above. Now let’s move on to the fun stuff:

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the built-in bidet feature commonly found in Japanese toilets that has captivated foreign visitors for years. As the buttons feature drawings of water spraying into butts, you don’t really need to read Japanese to figure out what they do. A fun side-note: when I first saw these buttons in middle school I was under the impression that they would spray water up directly from the toilet bowl. They don’t because that would be gross.

In my opinion the finest feature of Japanese toilets is the heated toilet seat. Unlike the houses I grew up in, Japanese homes generally do not have central heating, and the bathrooms can be freezing in winter. There is nothing quite like a heated toilet seat for these dark times. Usually this is controlled by a knob near the seat but it can also be a part of a button panel system.

The funniest feature of Japanese toilets is the “flushing noise” button. For those who are embarrassed by their “toilet sounds,” this button will create a loud noise to drown them out.

As for the numerous other controls on the panel, I don’t know what they do and I am too nervous to find out. If any of you get into some fun times pressing them, let me know!

Here is a basic English translation I found for some of these buttons: (Japanese people tend to translate the word for “butt” into “hip”)

toilet translation

image from

I am far from the first to write on the subject of Japanese toilets, and if you want to learn more about them or watch more weird videos, just google it!

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