Japanese toilets

Where is the smallest room in the house?

Okay, so I know I’m meant to be an English lady and we don’t talk about toilets, the loo, the lavatory, the bog or the bathroom. In fact, I only go and powder my nose. But I am going to have to go there. My dad is a urologist, so I’ve heard every joke in the book and more. And if you are going to Japan, you need to be made aware of the smallest rooms in the house.

I remember as a young teenager travelling to Malaysia with my father. We were in the car and we stopped off on our long journey to have a quick wee. This is where I first encountered… the Asian-style toilet. All I can say to this, is that I held it in and proceeded to hold my legs together for many many many hours until we reached our destination. Then I ran very very fast. Grimm…

Now Japan is well-known for its high-tech toilets with various functions that include keeping the toilet seat warm during the cold winter months (amazing!!). This one here is apparently eco-friendly – I’m not sure how with it being covered in buttons and a TV! Yup… just in case you get bored while you are sitting there I guess? And it even comes with a list of instructions on the wall in case you get confused…

photo 1 (1)photo 2 (1)photo 1 (2)

I look at this toilet in appreciation. This is what I always hope to discover when I’m out and about in Japan. However, it is not the norm. For some reason, Japan is not famous for the holes in the floor that you are much more likely to come across. It comes to a great surprise to many a visiting tourist…

At 18, I moved to Japan. The only thing in the Japanese home that I acknowledged as different in the bathroom department, was that the toilet was always in a separate room to the sink and bath. Always. Without exception. But seeing as the toilet was all nice and fine, it didn’t bother me at all. However, a week later I started studying at a local high school. After a few hours, I realised it was time to have a piddle. I walked into the toilets and nearly collapsed with shock.

Where were the normal toilets? What were these holes in the floor? And most importantly: How do I use them?

I learnt quickly and I shall give you some advice. If you are not into the pee-talk, then please look away now and read a different blog post. We have literally hundreds of other things on our blog that you can read about… if you like learning new things relating to urine passing, please read on.

photo 3 (1)Right, so, until you are a professional, hold it in for as long as you possible can. If you are not jumping up and down, do not even try. A dribble will just dribble all over you. Sorry, but you need to know this… if you are not desperate, drink more fluid and quickly.

Japanese people have grown up with these holes and I certainly had not. I cannot keep my balance at all when I am crouching, so I had to learn. Here are my tips:

1) Plant your feet firmly on the ground on either side of the hole

2) In front of you there is a metal object which includes the flush button to one side. This is great for holding onto and keeping yourself from falling over.

3) Aim and fire! Don’t hold back. You need pressure to do this, so errrm, yes… don’t hold back.

4) Just keep your balance!

I have taught a lot of foreigners how to pee and I have to say the above advice has worked every time. I do however have a couple more tips for you:

– Wear a skirt โ€“ this makes life much easier than trying to hold up your trousers and keep your balance. At least until you are a professional anyway.

– Bring tissue paper โ€“ you can often get free packets of tissue paper from people handing them out on the street. Take many as the paper is very very thin.

– Bring soap or hand sanitiser โ€“ Japan doesn’t seem to think this is an important item to be found in public toilets for some bizarre reason.

– Before you resign yourself to squatting, have a look in every single cubicle as often there will be one sitting-down toilet gem to be found!

photo 5I have to admit however, I just don’t see the reason for Japan having the hole-toilets anymore. Every time I come across them, I am appalled at the state of them. There is ALWAYS pee all over the floor. I will not go into some of the things I have seen, but if they are not blocked you are lucky. Ditto trying to find one that is clean. They are often so dirty and disgusting I don’t see how they can be hygienic. If Japanese people can’t use them properly, then how are the rest of us meant to?

* I was amused to find the below instructions of how to use a Western toilet…photo 2 (2)


  1. Hi Vanessa! I am amused at how people react to different types of toilets in other countries. I’m Chinese and grew up in Canada but am familiar with squatting and such, so I don’t have problems with these toilets. I would also advise women not to wear pantyhose if travelling on overnite trains in Japan and you are in a section with no Western toilets. :-) Can you imagine navigating with feet on either side and pantyhose while in motion? Talking about hygiene, you should see the state of some toilets in Ghana, West Africa.


    • Haha – I used to live in Ghana and have to say that whenever we did a long trip I wouldn’t drink anything at all the day before. I also learnt how to pee standing up, but that’s another story ๐Ÿ˜‰
      I am trying not to imagine wearing tights on a moving train in Japan… meep! :)

  2. Yikes. I have arthritis in my knee. Squatting is possible, but getting up, less so. I had heard about the “holes” but now that I’ve seen one….this will take a lot of practice. And where I will practice, I have no idea. Nor will I blog about it.

    • Blimey that would be difficult indeed. If you hunt around you often get lucky and find a ‘normal’ toilet hidden away somewhere nearby. I hope this doesn’t put you off visiting Japan as it’s such an amazing place :)

  3. Ich hab da noch eine Steigerung…das japanische Plumsklo (sehr altes japanisches Haus ohne Wassertoilette). ๐Ÿ˜€
    Das werden wundervolle 7 Wochen.
    Und auf der Grabung direkt git es sogar das Dixi-knie-klo >_<
    Nur fรผr euch werde ich extra Fotos davon machen! ;D

    Liebe GrรผรŸe,

    • Amazing – I literally can’t wait to see the photos! I wish you luck for the next few weeks – at least you will get some leg work-outs ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in India, so have become well practised in the art of squatting, even in motion (the squat-style loos on trains are literally a hole through the floor, so you see the track whizzing by beneath you as you go). I’ve collected some awesome peeing stories over the years (pulling down my shorts in the corner of a large field and realising I was squatting over a huge snake, for starters) but I have two favourite loos in my repertoire: a little hut on a mountain side placed strategically over a stream (in India – yes, unhygienic for those downstream, obviously, but serious points for ingenuity) and the other, in the highest village in Europe, in Georgia, a little hut down the end of a garden containing a chair with the seat cut out and replaced with a toilet seat, positioned directly above a hole. Brilliant. And you can’t beat a revolving German toilet seat, but I would so love to try out one of those Japanese contraptions!!

    • Wow – I have to admit I don’t even like the sitting down “normal” toilets on moving trains, so full respect to you there! I love all these toilet stories that are coming out from this post – amazing! I love your Georgia story – what a genius idea! And I remember the toilets in India as well – I think I kept myself very dehydrated throughout my entire trip… can’t imagine why… haha ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I’m an English lady, so I have no idea what you are on about (ahem).
      [Jason says: yes…]
      [And on a side note, I hear it’s better to use squat toilets for number twos… better for your bowls… ahem]

  5. Every time I see a picture of one of these high tech Japanese toilets, it makes me think of the Simpsons episode where they went to Japan; Homer’s reaction to the toilet: “They’re *years* ahead of us!”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *