The Tokyo Toilet


Japan is known for its high-tech innovations. The Washlet comes to mind. It warms the toilet seat, self-cleans, and it’s primary function is to give you a hands-free bum cleaning, with sprays of water, then a dryer. Some of the advanced ones play soothing music and analyzes your stool.  The control panel for this thing sometimes resembles a control panel on Star Trek.

After five years in japan I’ve never taken advantage of the Washlet. I’m old school, preferring good old toilet paper and a high fiber diet. It reminds me of the study in the US which found that recent immigrants don’t use the automatic dishwasher, instead using the appliance as an expensive dish rack.

I can’t fathom using jet sprays that emanate from the toilet, even though I know it’s just as sanitary as toilet paper.

In Japan it’s all about making life convenient and this idea manifests in numerous designs that smoothes every day processes. These are my favorite low tech things I like about the Tokyo Toilet.

toilet paper holder

The toilet paper roll holder.
In the US, no one wants to change the toilet paper roll because the mechanism is not that easy to use. You have to compress the coil-springed cylinder so that it collapses. Then after slipping the new roll over the cylinder, you have to wedge the thing back in, while holding down the spring.

In Japan, it’s just one upward movement, and voila, the TP is on. Instead of leaving a little toilet paper on the roll so as avoid having to change it, as all kids do, they’d be competing to do it.

The ledge.
American public restrooms have no place to put your bag. I have to tuck it under my arm while I do my business. In japan, there’s a handy shelf over the urinals. Easy.

The umbrella holder.
During the rainy season, the umbrella is a fact of life. In most public restrooms, you can just hang it on a hook next to the urinal while you take a whiz.

The tank sink.
The water that goes into your toilet tank is the same water you wash your hands with so why not use that water before it goes into the tank? The little sink over toilets is standard in Japanese homes, though non-existent in public bathrooms. Great idea, but the only drawback is that it’s often in difficult to reach areas, normally right over the toilet tank.

Automatic everything.
Okay, so this is not low tech. I actually don’t mind touching fixtures in public restrooms. But most people I know can’t stand it. So you’d be happy to know that everything is automatic. The toilet flushes, and the sink jets out both soap and water with just the wave of your hand. This is standard in even the humblest of bathrooms.

Instead of conceding the public restroom as a dirty cesspool, the Japanese public restroom rarely has trash on the floor. People who use it keep it clean (most of the time), and the bathrooms themselves are cleaned regularly.

Most of these are simple things that make the restroom experience much more tolerable and should be adopted by any country that claims to be civilized.

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