Brown monkey bathing in Japan

Japan is known for excelling in many areas… the least likely of which is toilet technology! There’s no denying that island country has elevated toilet innovation to levels we never would have imagined (have you seen the TOTO in action?). But what happens when you arrive in Japan and face two doors with signs in kanji, no English in sight, and no colours to help guess which bathroom to enter? 

The Japanese National Tourism Organisation breaks down the basics. First things first, learn how to read the signs: the men’s room will feature a figure with a rice field for a head (男) and women’s will have a figure with her legs crossed (女). 

Once you’re in your stall, you’ll need to recognise a few other signs. When you see 和, think of the box as a hole in the ground. This sign indicates that the stall has a “Japanese style” squat toilet. When you see 洋, look for the drops on the left and the toilet brush on the right to indicate a “western style” commode.

As you answer nature’s call, look out for such innovative features as seat warmers, bidets, and even a little blow dryer for post-bidet use. In the women’s public toilets, you might even find a button noted as 音姫 "oto-hime," or "sound princess," which will play a flushing sound for 20-30 seconds for privacy.

Shrine in Japan