Our trip around Japan wouldn’t be complete without telling toilet tales. The ablutions experience in Japan was unique on our travels to date. This is all about Japanese toilets.
We’ve just visited Asimo, the fabulous Honda robot who can run in the Honda showroom in Tokyo. It’s a marvelous free 14 minute show for all ages. You also get to play in the cars and on the motorbikes in the showroom before, during and after the show.
There’s a fab cafe here, where you can pick up a coffee for 200 Yen (and believe me that’s cheap in Tokyo). Despite not partaking, I did want to visit the loo before we headed out to our next stop.
The toilets in the Honda showroom are a treat and this isn’t unusual in Japan. Not only is the seat warmed (and it’s not because it’s just been vacated by the previous user), but there’s a full set of controls to make you comfortable and clean after you’ve done your business.
While you’re doing your business, there’s a special sound effects button. Actually, it’s a motion sensor. Wave your hand and the sound of flushing toilets accompanies you for as long as you might like. One automatic flush later and you’re on your way.
Most of the toilets we’ve come across in Japan have been like this. Hi tech, with every conceivable bidet spray you can wish for. Seat warming as standard. Toilet roll in spades. And sound effects for good measure. In one toilet we even hand held remote for all the functions!
The only bad toilet experience was a portaloo on the edge of Lake Kuttara near Noboribetsu, in Hokkaido. But we were there in off season, and the nearby lodge wasn’t just closed, it was boarded up for the season.
Actually the other bad toilet experience was at Kamikochi, the national park in the Alps. The toilets near the bus station in the park and the main information centre operate on a “tip” basis. You’re supposed to put 100 Yen in the pot for each pee, to help them deal with the costs of cleaning and maintenance. On the basis that the toilet was filthy it looked like I wasn’t the only one refusing to do that. 10 minutes walk further into the park there were free to use toilets.
One unique to Japan, we came across was the cistern that was also the tap. So after you’d flushed the loo, then you turned on a tap. Presumably (no one told us not to) you could wash your hands in water that then filled the cistern for the next time. I thought it was a cool idea.
It turns out the Japanese are concerned you don’t know how to use a Japanese toilet, so they provide instructions. Of course not all the toilets here in Japan are western style with warm seats and bidets, so it’s in English just in case you don’t know how to squat.
And the Japanese cater too for those with kids. We found these baby holders in several toilets, mainly in National Parks. You can now pee in relative peace while your kid was held in a single location. Again, that’s pretty cool!
The Japanese bathroom in a hotel is the ultimate capsule format. They are tiny, but you’ll get a toilet, sink, shelf, bath and shower. The bath is deep by western standards (MORE THAN DEEP by American standards) and short. You won’t be stretching out in this. What was glorious was to have a hot bath each night on the trip in Japan when we had this facility, then wrap up in the yukata or pyjamas that the hotel provided.
We’d already experienced the public bath on the ferry that we took into Japan from South Korea, and it seems that the onsen experience is one of those to absolutely try while in the country.. so we did, in the famous onsen town of Kinosaki… but more on that soon.