Bathrooms of Japan! A guest post by Philip.

Posted on
Jun 27, 2011

It is Monday morning, and do to some unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, I find myself in rural New Jersey (note: being in Jersey itself isn’t actually that unfortunate, but why we are here is. More on that at a later date). As this trip was unplanned, I was actually struggling to find something appropriate to blog about, when I recalled that my friend Philip (Yes, Philip, I admitted it: we are friends.) sent me a guest post. About toilets, no less. Japanese ones.

Naturally, this brightened my day exponentially. I hope it does yours as well. I will be back tomorrow with lots of crazy stories about … I don’t know. Something. In the meantime, enjoy the work of one of my former co-workers, and marvel at how someone would be crazy enough to hire both of us.


Hi. My name is Philip. Geraldine and I used to work together once upon a time. On her second day in the office she baked brownies with peppermint patties in them. That was the day I knew I needed to be her friend. Fun fact you might not know about Geraldine: when we all got laid off, she was in Italy. Yes, the seeds of the Everywhereist were planted even then. The company actually had to lay her off a week later because she was on vacation. Well played. Anyway, in a move calculated to ensure that she never receives another accolade for blogging, Geraldine has allowed me to write a guest post.

My dear wife is from Tokyo and her whole family still lives there. We paid a visit recently and since I failed to write a guest-post the last time we were there (to my eternal shame) I was determined to get one in this time. It was our eighth trip there together in the 13 years we’ve been married, and the second with our now 4-year-old daughter. That being said, you’d think I’d have some unique insight or profound cultural observation to make. And you’d be wrong. For today, I present…

Bathrooms of Japan!

  1. My decision to blog about toilets (and their environs) started with this beauty:

    This is a public men’s room. In a park. Did it smell like human waste? No. Was the floor upsettingly damp? No. Was there some sketchy dude camped out in the corner? No. Did it have an adorable vase of wildflowers between the sinks? Yes. Yes, it did.
  2. Staying on the theme of sinks for the moment, I was — like some absurd country bumpkin — blown away by the simple genius of this contraption:

    All of your handwashing needs in one tidy unit. I think we’ve all been in that bathroom where you need to wash your hands again after you let yourself out. Not so here. Besides, the bathroom was immaculate.
  3. Astro-turf in your hand-dryer?

    Why the hell not? I actually rubbed it for a while (the astro-turf, you pig), so charmed was I by the notion. Most places don’t have towels or even hand dryers (which is why I now carry a handkerchief) but this joint went the extra mile.
  4. A friend of ours actually has one of these in her house, but this one is from a restaurant:

    Wash your hands while it fills the tank. Now that is eco-conscious. Note: I flushed twice so I could get this picture. Sorry, Japan.
  5. If you stay around Tokyo, you don’t face this problem very often. But when you get out into the country (as we did for a few days), you will be faced with the dreaded “slipper.”

    This is a traditional Japanese toilet. Very low. Squatting required. Having no practice with these I’ve always held out for more familiar apparatuses. I just don’t know how you use them without getting your pants wet. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of my confusion. Moving on…
  6. I guess nobody’s perfect. This was the one remarkably unpleasant bathroom I stumbled into on my nearly-three-week visit.

    Not only did it smell like the smoke from every cigarette in Tokyo was being pumped directly into this one bathroom, but if you need a sign to tell you this… what in hell is wrong with you?
  7. This place is an astounding monument to human digestion:

    The only thing more amazing than its high ceilings, abundant natural light and gleaming fixtures was the fact that this is a highway rest stop. Neither raccoon nor conservative legislator on the hustle in sight.
  8. A lot of things in Japan are written in English, which is very helpful for those of us who still don’t know much Japanese despite having every opportunity to learn. Sometimes, however, you are greeted by a bathroom door that provides very little useful information:

    This has happened to me more than once and despite my vow to at least learn the characters for “man” and “woman”, my brother-in-law had to rescue me on this one. FYI, that is “woman.” Learn it. Don’t be like me.
  9. If you’ve ever heard stories about modern Japanese toilets, they are all true. They are like carnival rides and best friends and time machines rolled into one. This is the control panel from the one in my in-laws house.

    I had to be shown where the “flush” button was. Though I am too scared to press the others, I am tempted by their seeming promise that a stream of water will lift you off the seat and to a brighter tomorrow.

That’s that. Thanks for reading. Now, go forth and do your business.

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