Tokyo Toilets

As our loyal readers are well area, we devote a borderline disturbing amount of time on toilets. Well, we don't want to leave Tokyo out of the fun…

Special in Japan are the infamous squat toilets. These have no seat; one does one's business squatting over a trough in the floor. For kids unused to this system, things can get messy fast.

Messy? How about the gross floor which has (literally) been pee'ed, pooped and trodden upon. How about kids slipping and putting a foot into the trough (where the remains of a Big Toilet Incident lay)? Here is a picture to get your imagination moving:

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And, in case you think that only Westerners worry about unfamiliar plumbing, I offer this:

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More and more toilets in Japan are being converted into the familiar sitter we all know and love. The more modern the building, the more likely it'll have a proper sit down pooper. In middle-aged buildings, if there is only a squatter on the third floor, try another floor if you can to see if you can find a sitter. In temples, shrines, older train stations, government buildings, elementary schools and the like, it is likely all squatters. Anything marked with a “handicap access” sign will be a sitter. If you can, plan ahead for restroom stops. If you can't, accompany your child and help him/her balance that first time over the trough.

The public toilet situation, at least in central Tokyo, has improved quite a bit in recent years. Most subway stations now have public toilets that are sort-of clean (enough). The toilets are almost always on the “inside” of the stations, so you must have a subway ticket first before being allowed in. This emphasizes the need for parents to make double- triple- sure to encourage potty breaks before passing through the ticket wicket and exiting the subway station.

Once outside, the toilet situation gets chancy. Most fast food restaurants have reasonable toilets and will not hassle you if you use the potty without buying anything. Most smaller shops and restaurants do not have public toilets, or reserve them for customers only. Museums and public places usually do have toilets, though cleanliness varies.

As if to prove the statement that there is an Internet site for everything, I offer the Toilets of Tokyo web site. The English side is funny enough, but turn to the Japanese part of the web site for more yucky photos.

Very few public restrooms in Japan have hot water, most have no soap, almost all have no paper towels, many have no way at all to dry one's hands. Do what the Japanese do"€arrive with a hanky to dry one's hands, use hand sterilizer goop or washlet towels in little packets.

Sometimes as you're walking near a train station people will be handing out little tissue packets with an advertisement on the back. Stick out your hand for one (the hander-outer guy will usually not give you one automatically, presuming you don't read Japanese). Do take a look at the advertisement on the back. Some times the ads are for adult services, and you'll want to decide if the photos are appropriate for your family or not.

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