The short piece below was sent to all my western contacts soon after we arrived in Hokkaido. We found this to be a really interesting lesson in cultural differences, and we wanted to understand.
Just before we left Hokkaido, we took some more pictures of these famous toilets, this time in a huge electronics store where they were being sold—because, obviously you have to plug them in for all the bells and whistles to work. All rather fancy, and pretty pricey (we thought). The US$/Japanese yen exchange rate has not been good, and even with today’s rally (US$1=85 yen, Oct 19, 2010) these are costly seats. The special low on the one picture is 20,500 yen (US$241), rising through 44,800 yen (US$527) to 89,800 yen (US$1056), and higher—in this huge store anyway. So, at the end are some of those pics, as an update. We also found out that the Men’s usually have the same toilets too, as do many private houses.
CULTURAL DIFFERENCES: WOMEN’S TOILETS
In many public places we find very interesting toilets in the Women’s. If they have sit-down toilets, as opposed to the squat type, then most of them have an array of unusual buttons. Usually on the right-hand side is a low arm-rest with the buttons (sometimes in English and Japanese, which is why I can understand) that you can press. For example, one for flushing sound, one for musical noise, one for bidet, one for rinse, and one for powerful deodorant. Heaven forbid that anyone else should hear you in the toilet!! The sound is often gentle rippling water, or bird song.
The problem is that finding the actual flush pedal, knob, button, lever or whatever, is sometimes rather hard!
(This picture is of a simple one, with English too—some are much fancier, with no English, then it’s really hard to know what to press!).
What’s great for visitors is that public toilets are conveniently located almost everywhere in Japan. They are always spotless and very well-marked with the universal male-female symbol. They always look the same and are the same colors (red for Women, blue for Men) so are easy to find. A big plus for Japan, compared to some other countries we’ve visited!
Some of the COMMENTS I received earlier:
1. Dear Viv
I heard about these loos, delighted to meet one. What’s the music like? Can you choose? “elevator’ music – or a whole new genre: loo music? or perhaps a Strauss Waltz?? do tell. xxx Fiona
2. Be careful Viv… my knowledge of japanese is rather limited, but I think the button lower right actually reads “ejector seat”. 😉 Gill
As you know, I hadn’t been to Japan for 17 years until 2008. I was very interested in this type of toilet too. About 20 years ago, this toilet is for just home, not public place. Gradually I saw them in some good restaurants just before I came to US 20+years ago.
Don’t worry. You can push any button.
It won’t break, even won’t eject.
4. I have heard of these before… glad to see one !
Very interesting I must say. Lar
The new pics: