Japanese Toilets ウォシュレット
A toilet sign in Japan
Credit: Antoine Legastelois
A toilet in the Shinkansen
Credit: Antoine Legastelois
A "shower" button on a Japanese toilet
A "bidet" button on a Japanese toilet
The "flushing sound" button plays a fake flushing noise when pressed to hide any embarrassing noises...
Very useful: the "stop" button!
Credit: Clarisse Langlet
Hi-tech toilets? No, you're not on board the International Space Station, you're in Japan.
Off you go!
A manual would probably be helpful when using a Japanese toilet! But what is so different about these toilets, called washlets in Japan?
First, they have a heated seat. Sit down... and it can be a shock. It's fair to say we aren't really accustomed to having our rears heated while on the toilet. In explanation, it can get rather cold in winter in Japanese homes, as many homes do not have central heating. Of course, this feature can be disabled, and it's usually turned off in the summer when the weather is sweltering.
The second striking feature of these toilets: the small remote control, packed with buttons, found near the toilet seat or against the wall. With all these buttons, you can imagine the toilets have a full range of interesting features. Of course, everything is written in Japanese, and the odd symbols are not necessarily easy to work out. If you're brave enough, try pressing a few buttons for a surprise!
In fact, most of the functions are there to be used after having taken care of your business.
While the Japanese do use toilet paper, they also have the choice to clean with a jet of water released through a nozzle. Using the remote control options, both the power of the jet and the water temperature can be controlled. You can also adjust the angle of the water jet to make it very effective. The magic of a washlet!
Have you pressed the "ビデ" button? I hope for your sake that you are a girl, because it's the bidet function, otherwise expect to get rinsed off where you shouldn't be...
Once clean, your bottom needs to dry. And it couldn't be easier with the integrated fan!
Some toilets even play music to keep this intimate moment as discreet as possible...
Finally, when you get up you will automatically trigger the flushing mechanism. Magic.
Oh, one last thing that's good to know: the slippers you find by the toilet entrance are for you to use. Swap your house slippers for these toilet slippers every time you use the facilities. By having separate toilet slippers, it ensures the floor of the rest of the house stays hygienic. Take them off and put them back in place as you leave.
Washiki vs Washlet
These toilets, present in many Japanese homes, have the cute name of washlet (ウォシュレット), so named by the famous TOTO company that, in the early 1980s, flooded the market with its "smart toilets". Since then, the Japanese have embraced them to the point that they are obliged to install them in Japanese schools, since small schoolchildren, accustomed to hi-tech toilets at home, don't know how to use any other kind!
Yet - paradoxically - during your stay you will encounter many "Turkish toilets" as the Japanese call them, or squat toilets, especially in public places like parks and train stations. This is actually the traditional kind of Japanese toilet, called washiki (和式). Switching between the rustic and all-electronic is a particularly Japanese experience!
The toilet is an important matter in Japan, TOTO has even recently opened a museum in Kitakyushu.