How to Use a Japanese Toilet

Ok, this post is mostly for the ladies, but men might learn something, too.

For those used to western-style, sit-down toilets, something that resembles an elongated sink in the floor might be met with trepidation and confusion.  These are squat toilets, and they’re quite common in Japan.  Sometimes, they’re your only option, so it’s good to know how to use them.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

Japan also has western-style toilets, but these usually come with a bidet and a host of electronic options to rinse your bum or even play music or ambient noise to disguise less pleasant sounds.  The controls can be a bit confusing at first, but they aren’t mandatory. These toilets are considerably easier to figure out.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

I struggled with the squat toilets when we went to Japan.  Fortunately, the bathrooms I visited had diagrams right in the stall to show me how to use them.  I also thought they were meant to be used only as a squatting urinal.  Sadly, others also had trouble figuring it out, as evidenced by the smell that exceeded that of the men’s room.

I avoided them as long as I could.. then I came to a bathroom that had no other option. Once I actually used one, I found I actually kind of preferred them!  They’re efficient, and you don’t have to touch anything.  Besides, it’s an ergonomic position for doing your business.

© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015

It also helps that I camp a lot in the backwoods where there aren’t even outhouses.  It was this that prompted me to google how to “pee in the woods,” as I had previously been forced to practically undress to not soil my dropped drawers (men can’t possibly understand our struggles!).

As I have seen others question how to do this without falling over, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned.  Here’s how to do it properly:

  1. Stand over the toilet, straddling the porcelain in the floor, facing the dome and flushing handle (this is the front of the toilet).
  2. Drop your pants to your knees (not your ankles.. you don’t want your pants draped on the toilet – gross!).
  3. Squat straight down over your feet, keeping balanced (carefully).  I usually brace my elbows on my knees.
  4. Here’s the secret step!  Grab your pants at the crotch and pull them out of the way (toward the front of the toilet).
  5. Other secret step!  Pivot your hips so you’re aiming downward – below your raised garments (yes, you can aim).
  6. Do your business, wipe, carefully stand back up, and redress.
© LotsaSmiles Photography 2015
Toilet paper reading material

It might help to practice with a skirt or stretchy pants before graduating to jeans.  You might also consider brushing up on your squatting techniques prior to departure.

It’s really not as scary as it may seem, and in no time, you’ll be a pro!


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