On High-Technology Toilets

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A ryokan is a traditional Japanese inn, but “traditional” does not necessarily mean “primitive” or “austere.” Often they are equipped with all the latest modern conveniences.

For example the toilet in my bathroom had a complicated control panel with numerous buttons, all labeled in Japanese. This was intimidating since my Japanese is pretty limited and I can’t read kanji at all.

Hi-Tech Toilet

However I was able to figure out some of the functions. In particular the four large square buttons not only have kana labels, but also helpful diagrams or icons. It is thus easy to figure out that these buttons control the automatic electronic butt-washer.
Toilet Control Panel

The left-most square button is labeled with the kanji for “stop.” If you can only memorize one kanji character, that is a good one to know.

The second button from the left has the hiragana label “oshiri” (rear end). Sure enough, the icon shows a drawing of somebody’s butt and a little spray of water.

The third button is labeled “yawaraka” (soft). The icon shows another butt, this time with more water.

The fourth button is labeled “BIDE” (bidet). The icon shows a user being lifted several feet in the air by a mighty fountain.

I am less sure about the other buttons, but some of them seem to control the air dryer and some probably set the temperature of the heated toilet seat.

Flushing is accomplished in a fairly mundane manner by means of a handle on the side of the tank. This also activates the little hand-washing basin top of the tank.

I can only hope that this is not one of the 180,000 toilets that the manufacturer had to recall because of a tendency to spontaneously catch fire.

There is one area where American technology remain clearly superior, at that is toilet paper. American toilet paper is thicker, softer, more absorbent, and is perforated. Japanese toilet paper either has no perforations, or perforations so small that they might as well not be there. On the other hand, Japanese toilet paper holders are equipped with a tear-off panel that makes perforations largely unnecessary.
Toilet Paper Holder

Warning: do not expect to see wonders such as these if you wander into a public restroom. Japanese public restrooms are clean, but they have characteristics likely to disconcert the average American tourist:

  • Asian squat toilets.
  • No free toilet paper. It’s sold in vending machines, so try to keep some 100 Yen coins with you.
  • No paper towels or hand dryers. You are supposed to bring your own handkerchief or hand towel. (I guess W.S. Gilbert was wrong.)

All Entries For This Trip.

1 thought on “On High-Technology Toilets

  1. J Greely

    My teacher has a lot of friends in Japan who insist that she bring them premium American toilet paper when she comes to visit. In addition to the superior softness, they like the appearance. She boxes up a few cases and makes it one of her checked bags.

    The two pairs of buttons at the bottom of your picture are labeled weak/strong water pressure adjustment (水勢調節 = suisei-chousetsu) and front/rear washing position (洗浄位置 = senjou-ichi).


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