カルチャーショック! Part 1: Japanese Toilets

This will be my first installment of a mini series that I will be called “カルチャーショック!,” or “Culture Shock!,” where I will focus on the shocking things that I discovered about Japan during my time there. I’m sure this series will have many more parts once I start my time studying abroad, but for now, there are still many interesting aspects of Japan that really surprised me when I first went there.

Toilets. Is there a better place to begin? Considering that long plane ride from your home country to Japan, there is a good chance that your first real experience with an item that is uniquely Japanese will be found no farther than the bathrooms of the airport.

Similarly to many other Asian countries, you can find the “squatting toilets,” the bane of my existence when visiting India, in most places, but there is usually a choice between these and the most familiar “Western Toilets,” so please rest assured. These are often located in more rural areas and historical/religious sites like Temples and Shrines, so if you are interested in visiting the less touristy areas of Japan, becoming comfortable with this kind of toilet may be a good idea.

A Modern day Japanese squat toilet. Note the separate slippers for use in the bathroom. This is very normal in Japanese households

A Modern day Japanese squat toilet. Note the separate slippers for use in the bathroom. This is very normal in Japanese households.

Maybe a little more interesting are the “Washlets,” or ウォシュレットin Japanese, which are, I will definitely admit, pretty darn cool. They have little control panels on the side with let you pre-warm your seat, play music while you…do your business, or use the water spraying feature…depending on what kind of business you did.

This is how a Washlet would generally look like.

This is how a Washlet would generally look like.

A close up of the Washlet control panel.

A close up of the Washlet control panel.

Many Japanese toilets also have a sink at the top. When you flush, recycling water (that is clean!) can be used to wash your hands. I was weirded out at first, but isn't it efficient?

Many Japanese toilets also have a sink at the top. When you flush, recycling water (that is clean!) can be used to wash your hands. I was weirded out at first, but isn’t it efficient?

My favorite setting on the Washlets in Japan was always the one which made bird noises. It was indeed calming.

As you can imagine, I was very surprised to see these kinds of toilets when coming to Japan for the first time. No one bothered to mention that even the toilets in Japan were more technically advanced than ours in America, and it probably took me a good five minutes just to figure out where on earth the “flush” was, but it made me realize how efficient Japan really is.

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