Take a look around a Japanese bathroom and you will get a good summary of the country as a whole. Right next to traditional baths with their many etiquettes that have barely changed in hundreds of years, are high-tech modern toilets with more buttons than your TV remote.
I had heard about Japans toilets ‘with buttons’ before visiting but if you had asked me, I couldn’t have given you 1 possible feature that I could have thought was needed on a toilet. After a couple of weeks trying out a number of features I’m partially swayed.
There were numerous functions I came across including…
Automatic seat lifting
When you open the door, the toilet seat lifts. When you stand up, it closes. The first time I saw this the seat flew up so quickly it almost gave me a heart attack
Spray and blow dry
Press the button and you get a nice spray to your backside whilst being able to control the direction of spray, temperature and pressure. Blow dry to finish, of course
The most common function I came across – usually running water or the sound of a toilet repeatedly flushing, to add a bit of comforting ‘drown out’ sound!
No need to lift a finger
Followed by a nice waft of perfume into the cubical.
In case you get bored, I guess
My personal favourite, there’s nothing like a toasty seat to greet you in the morning
Old school baths
Although the toilets are high tech, the baths in Japan are definitely not. As I mostly stayed in traditional accommodation, known as Ryokans, almost all the washing facilities I came across were men and women separated public baths. Unless you pay for a more expensive place with a private bath, or seek out western hotels, you are going to have to get used to cleaning naked in front of others.
Being British, I was initially very reserved about the whole naked thing. But, by the end of the trip, you couldn’t keep me out of the baths, especially when it was an onsen (natural hot springs). They are just so relaxing. It was like being on a permanent spa break. And as for being the naked, the Japanese are SO considerate you won’t find a single person looking your way, not even for a cheeky glance.
Just like with lots of things in Japan, there are lots of etiquettes to get your head around.
The Japanese bathroom rules
1. Firstly you will need to leave your slippers at the door – you would have already swapped your shoes for house slippers at the front door. If you use the toilet there will be a specific pair of ‘toilet-slippers’ waiting for you inside. (You get used to slipping shoes on and off all the time)
2. There is an entrance area where you strip down to the nude and put all your belongings into a basket
3. Go into the next room where there is a row of showers and the hot bath. You must shower before entering the bath. The showers are all seated so you have to sit on a little stall and use the shower head, or the bucket, to wash and the toiletries which are always available. It felt pretty weird showering sat down at first. The advantages is it is easier to clean your feet!
4. Soak in the hot bath and relax. The best bit. But don’t put your hair in the water – that’s not allowed.
5. I’d have another quick rinse after the bath (I saw some people doing this to cool down before going for round 2 in the hot bath). Once ready I’d head back out to the changing area to dry and get changed. In a lot of places they give you Yukata’s (light kimonos) to wear. Now’s the time to put this on if you are just planning to hang out in your room or if you have dinner booked with the ryokan.