November 14, 2014
I am sure that no foreigner can go without a comment on Japanese toilets! So I am not going to be the exception. I think the toilets are one thing we will really miss once we are moving away from this country.
First of all, they are everywhere. In every metro station, every park, every supermarket, at each department store. And they come in high density. You will find several toilets in the metro station or the park, there will be toilets on each floor of a department store. So no desperate running to the one toilet at the end of the mall (Brussels) or waiting for the elevator to take you to the top floor of the department store (Basel, Germany and many more) or even leaving the department store to go to McDonalds (France). Getting around the city with our children and making sure they drink enough during the day does not make us nervous any more. And all of those toilets are clean. In parks you will find the ordinary water closet model, but everywhere else there is the more sophisticated version with water sprayer, dryer, sound etc.
A lot of places also have changing boards in their toilets. Some supermarkets would have a sign outside telling you that their toilet has a changing board. So what is a changing board you may ask. You may not know that when entering a Japanese apartment, you take off your shoes and put on some slippers provided by the host. If you would like to use the toilet you change your slippers against the toilet slippers waiting for you at the guest toilet. The same is true for some restaurants, where you take off your shoes at the entrance and you continue in socks. At the toilet there will be slippers to put on. One restaurant in the neighbourhood has children slippers as well. Mark and I already thought that the boys had a bladder infection because they kept on going to the toilet, until we found out that they just went to put on the Pokemon slippers!
Back to the changing board: So you do not touch the ground of the toilet with your socks or bare feet. Thats why you will step on a changing board if you would like to get changed before going to work or to an after-work party or when dressing for work in the morning after you spent the night partying (You can get underwear, socks, white shirts, tights etc. in every convenient store).
The next thing I like about the toilets here is that most of them have children seats inside the cabins. Even in the men’s toilets. The cabins with children’s seats are marked with little stickers. Your infant is in a safe seat while you are using the toilet. My kids are big now and go to toilet by themselves, but I still remember travelling with little Lilo – or even worse with the boys – by myself and having to carefully plan my toilet visits or to ask other people for help.
Most toilets also have a disinfectant dispenser (filled!) and of course toilet paper is never out. Sometimes the seat heating is turned on – especially now as the cold season has started.
An interesting feature is the sound button. It basically is a water flushing sound that is very noisy (you can control the volume) and goes on for quite a long time. You can turn it back on as often as you like or just
turn it off. It drowns out all noise that you may produce when using the toilet!
Toilets in privat homes have all of these features, too. We have four toilets in our house, but the one in the guest toilet is the fanciest one. This seems to be true for all the apartments I have seen so far. I think it is a mixture of impression management and wanting the best treatment for your guests. Ours opens its lid to welcome you and flushes automatically when you are done. But don’t hope for the seat heating as we turned it off for energy saving on all of them.