After six months of being a little apprehensive at best (and let’s face it, sometimes rather fearful) of going into public toilets in the Indian sub-continent, I find myself at the other end of the scale and almost excited about the prospect in Japan!
It’s not just that they are usually spankingly clean, it’s the bewildering selection of extra buttons that make the whole experience so much fun that you can sometimes forget why you went in in the first place. Add to that the heated toilet seats and you might find yourself not wanting to come out.
There’s a “privacy” button which makes a flushing sound to cover up any noises you may be producing (this comes with volume adjustment buttons to give you complete peace of mind). Then there is an array of bidet and spray buttons, again usually fully adjustable in terms of power and also location (front and back) and an all-important “stop” button.
Sometimes the buttons are on the wall; other times on the side of the toilet
Separately there may be a button for lifting and lowering the seat and also a “wand spray” or “deoderising” button for cleaning the bowl and sanitiser to clean the seat. My favourite toilet (so far) was in a bar in Tokyo where the toilet lid automatically lifted on sensing the arrival of a new user in the cubicle: a very impressive hands-free addition to the highly technical experience.
Sometimes faced with so many buttons, on first blush it can be a little hard to find the actual “flush” button but rest assured it’s there (or sometimes just a more ordinary looking lever), again with a choice of flow strength. In Japan, it seems you can never have too much choice. Or too many instruction sheets which abound in this country: it’s a little overwhelming.
Instruction sheets: who would have thought so many were necessary?
Mothers with small children are also catered for as many cubicles come complete with a child seat into which you can plop your little darling while you get on with your own business unencumbered.
However in my opinion, the one area in which there is room for improvement is hand drying facilities. Often there are neither paper towels nor hand driers which just seems a little odd since every other detail seems to have been thought about in excruciating detail. Obviously those in the know like the locals come prepared with their own little flannel/towel but it would still be helpful to have something on-site.
Japan also has some squat toilets: these are different in design to the Indian ones and again often come with instructions or a picture guide on how to use etc. However, in squat toilets, there are no additional gadgets and obviously no heated toilet seat so the whole process tends to be a lot quicker but far less entertaining!
Squat toilet instructions
Finally, there’s the mystery urinal type feature in ladies’ toilets: is this a female urinal in the public waiting area of the toilet? Or is it for young boys who accompany their mother to use? It’s not entirely clear but so far, I’ve never seen it put to any use at all (although have seen quite a number of them installed).