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Japanese Toilets!!!

In Japanese History, Travel in Japan on November 10, 2012 at 2:35 pm

According to the JTA (Japan Toilet Association), November 10th is Toilet Day in Japan.

And get this…

It’s in direct opposition to World Toilet Day, which is on November 19th.
The World Toilet Organization must be pissed off as hell.

But as they say, it’s better to be pissed off than to be pissed on. ()

Thanks to such idiotic unofficial holidays, it gives me a chance to reflect on how totally awesome Japanese toilets are.

Even though I had traveled around Europe and the US before I came to Japan, I hadn’t experienced the awesomeness that is a fully functional Japanese toilet. Sure, Europe and the US can claim to have the world standard for a decent toilet. It works. It does what it does. It serves a noble purpose. But Japan took things to the next level.

Once you use the standard style toilet in Japan, you will consider all other toilets barbaric. Even the standard models you find in the US and Europe. (And don’t even get me started on toilets in Korea or Thailand, etc…)

But it wasn’t always so nice.

So let’s take a stroll through history. Let’s look at the history of toilets in Japan.

My research has pointed me to this sort of contraption as the earliest type of toilet:

Japanese Toilets in the Nara Period

Japanese squat toilet from the Nara Period. This was the standard style until recently.

The excrement would be collected by some lucky souls – I’m guessing 穢多 (eta – the untouchable caste in feudal Japan. This is a super non-PC word, but I’m not Japanese so maybe I can get away with it). These poor people had all the shittiest jobs, working at execution grounds, working with animal carcasses and butchery and leather working, etc. It seems reasonable that they’d get stuck with the shit job of collecting shit and then selling it to farmers as fertilizer. That said, re-using animal or human excrement like this is very ecological.

People used wooden sticks called 籌木 (chūgi) to wipe their asses. I’ve seen the pictures. It doesn’t look like a pleasant experience. An alternate word for chūgi is 糞箆 (kusobera) which translates as “shit spatula.” Nice!

the Japanese shit spatula

That thing is going nowhere near my ass, bro.

Once we get to the Edo Period, we find various types of toilets. This one conjures up all sorts of unsavory images in my mind. 

Japanese toilets in the Edo Period

Guess what the pig’s job is!

In crowded cities like Edo, many of the common people lived in row houses called 長屋 (nagaya). If you visit the Edo-Tokyo Museum or the shitamachi museums in Ueno and Fukagawa you can get a feel for what life was like in these dormitory-esque family living spaces. I’m going to assume you know what nagaya are so we can just move on to the toilets.

Nagaya had adjacent or connected facilities that were communal toilets called 惣後架 (sōkōka). These were similar to the first picture.  They gave a private room with a hole in the ground to squat over. Since people wore kimonos, squatting was the best way to, um, relieve yourself because you didn’t want to shit or piss all over your clothes. Even today, sometimes you come across a freaky squat toilet in Japan. Normally, I avoid these at all costs, but if I’m wearing a kimono or yukata, I prefer them.

Japanese squat toilet

Shitting all over the floor or on my jeans is just one of many worries with this sort of toilet. But if you’re wearing traditional Japanese clothes, this is great.

As I said, sometimes you can still find the squat toilet and In my opinion, if you’re not sporting a kimono, it can be a terrifying site.

After WWII, “western toilets” began to proliferate in Japan. These days there are 2 categories of toilets: 和式 (wa-shiki) “Japanese Style” and 様式 (yō-shiki) “Western Style.” The western style is by far the more common.

There are western style toilets just the kind you’ll find in America, but these are for uncivilized barbarians. The toilet of choice is the Washlette type.

This toilet often has water conserving add on’s. For example, over the water tank there might be a small sink that automatically runs clean water so you can wash your hands at the same time as flushing.

Saving water! But it's cold water!

Clean hands means less chance of catching a cold.

Another water conserving measure is a two way flush handle. One direction will start a big flush and the other direction will start a small flush.

But the best thing about the Washlette type toilet is that it conserves toilet paper while making your dirty parts extra clean at the same time.

The Washlette type toilet can generate 2 kinds of warm water sprays, one is a concentrated beam for washing your ass, inside and out. It has a sort of “volume control” for doing soft and general washing and a hard, concentrated spray for getting right up in that ass and making it sparkling clean. There’s a bidet function for the ladies who wanna keep their lady places nice and clean.

In my home, our Washlette has an automatic feature that sucks up the stink and blows a little puff of air freshener!

My favorite thing about the Washlette type is that it keeps the seat warm for you. In the winter, I never wanna leave the bathroom.

The most advanced toilet in the world.

Any other toilet is… for barbarians.

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  1. I dont know how I end up here, but I love love love your blog. Keep up the good work!

  2. It’s craptastic!

    LiterallY!

  3. Warm seats! Really, you can’t live without ’em in this country that hasn’t yet invented insulation 😉

  4. Hi, I’m new here. gonna get reading!
    I haven’t been to Japan yet. Working on it. Learning nihongo too.

    – So; toilets. I don’t know why you’re so freaked by wa-shiki. I’ve been a squatter all my life (- it just came to me naturally). I’ve never found trousers to be a problem.

    But each to their own. I’m quite looking forward to using my first wa-shiki!

    Curiously, we have a Japanese-style bidet here at home (Brisbane, Australia), and I never use it! Dislike sitting, dislike a warmed seat (it’s like the previous user has just gotten off; euw!), and the worst thing? I can’t squat on it!! The whole seat-thing doesn’t leave enough room for my swatty butt (which is in no way a big one!) Irony-plus!!

    Thanks for the blog! (Oh, and you need to tell your readers which way to face if they’re ever faced with a wa-shiki.)

    BTW, this page has been linked into a discussion on Facebook about swatting. Expect a few more hits.
    じゃあまたね!

    • <>

      Firstly, I had no idea that was even thing!! And secondly, thank you very much for sharing.

      <>

      Basically because I never did it and the first time I tried to use one, I had no idea what to do and how to do it and was terrified of accidentally shitting all over my pants and then having to walk home like that. The fear was amplified by the fact that the reason I even had to use the washiki toilet was because I suddenly had the runs! What a potential mess that could have been. lol

      <>

      Welcome! Glad to have you onboard. Thanks for commenting and thanks for sharing. Hope you like what you read!

  5. […] Japanese Toilets (from 2012) […]

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