How to Use a Japanese Toilet: Japan’s High-Tech Restrooms

Japan has always been advanced in many things, and if there’s one invention that consistently amazes visitors to the land of the rising sun, it’s none other than those high-tech Japanese toilets. They can turn a quick restroom visit into an otherworldly experience, especially if you are accustomed to traditional Western facilities.

Japanese toilets, often referred to as “washlets,” are the epitome of bathroom luxury and functionality. They are equipped with an array of features that are rarely found elsewhere, including heated seats, automated bidets, and even deodorizing functions.

With customizable controls and sleek designs, it should not come as a surprise that Japanese toilets draw admiration for their impressive advancements in personal hygiene and comfort. They exemplify Japan’s dedication to combining technology with everyday life, setting a new standard for toilet design around the world.

For the uninitiated, the first encounter with a Japanese toilet can be quite the challenge. With an array of buttons and options, its high-tech features may seem daunting. But there’s no need to panic!

In this guide, we’ll explore how to use a Japanese toilet, delve into the fascinating world of Japanese toilet etiquette, and unravel more of the mysteries of these advanced restroom facilities. Be sure to save this guide for your next trip to Japan.

Key Takeaways

  • Japanese toilets, also known as washlets, are advanced restroom facilities equipped with a wide array of features, including bidets, heated seats, and more.
  • Using a Japanese toilet involves mastering the control panel, adjusting water pressure and temperature, and ensuring proper hygiene.
  • Understanding and adhering to Japanese toilet etiquette is crucial. Always follow local customs and maintain cleanliness.
  • Japanese toilets are available not just in private restrooms like at home or in hotels, but also in public restrooms such as those in train stations and malls.
  • Many Japanese manufacturers produce high-quality washlets that are equipped with more advanced features.

Toilets in Japan: A Tale of a Technological Marvel

Before we dive into the intricacies of using a Japanese toilet and the etiquette surrounding it, let’s learn a bit more about this technological marvel.

The story of Japanese high-tech toilets is a tale of innovation, comfort, and advanced technology. Their journey dates to the 1960s when companies like Toto began experimenting with electronic toilet seats. These early innovations featured basic functions like seat warming and automatic flushing, laying the groundwork for washlet technology.

By the 1980s, Toto introduced washlets with built-in bidet functions, a pioneering move that redefined toilet hygiene.

As technology evolved, the 1990s saw the rise of washlet designs with heated seats that provided added comfort during colder seasons and air dryers that eliminated the need for toilet paper.

As the 21st century dawned, sensor technology became prevalent, enabling hands-free lid operation and advanced customization through user-friendly control panels. Self-cleaning bowls, deodorizers, and privacy-enhancing features were eventually added through the years.

Today, Japanese toilets are at the height of sophistication, with brands engaged in a constant game of one-upmanship. Each tries to outdo the others with new features that enhance comfort, hygiene, and user experience.

In fact, you can now find smart toilets that can be controlled through smartphone apps, allowing users to personalize their bathroom experience even further. Some models feature health-tracking capabilities, analyzing urine samples for potential health insights.

A Breakdown of Japanese Toilet Features and Functions

Japanese high-tech toilets have not only redefined bathroom comfort but have also become a symbol of the nation’s technological prowess. These advanced restroom fixtures have found their way into homes, businesses, and public facilities worldwide, leaving a lasting impression on those fortunate enough to encounter them.

If you ever step into a Japanese restroom and encounter a toilet, here are some of the remarkable functions you might encounter:

  • Bidet and Spray Functions: One of the standout features of Japanese toilets is the bidet and spray functions. These functions provide a gentle stream of water for personal hygiene, ensuring a thorough and comfortable cleanse.
  • Heated Seats: Many Japanese toilets come with heated seats, making your bathroom experience much more pleasant, especially during the colder seasons.
  • Flushing Sound: To maintain privacy, some washlets are equipped with a flushing sound feature. It’s designed to mask any noises you make while using the toilet, ensuring a more discreet experience.
  • Sensor Technology: Advanced sensors are integrated into Japanese toilets to detect when you’re approaching or leaving the toilet. This technology helps automate various functions, such as raising the seat when you approach and flushing when you’re done.
  • Dryer Function: After using the bidet or spray functions, you can activate the dryer function to ensure you’re completely dry before leaving the restroom.

How to Use a Japanese Toilet

Now, let’s get down to business. Using a Japanese toilet may seem like a daunting task, but with a little guidance, you’ll be a pro in no time. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use a Japanese toilet:

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Control Panel

Most Japanese toilets come with a control panel located on the side of the toilet. This panel allows you to customize your toilet experience. While the options may vary, common functions include bidet, spray, and flush settings. Familiarize yourself with the symbols and buttons on the control panel before you start.

2. Take a Seat

Japanese toilets often have a heated seat feature, which can be a pleasant surprise when you have just battled the snow and cold wind outside. Once you’re seated comfortably, you’re ready to proceed.

If you’re concerned about maintaining privacy while using the toilet, look for the 音 (oto, “sound”) button. Pressing it activates an artificial flushing noise that will mask any sounds while you use the facilities – a discreet feature designed to keep your business truly private. Should the sound become a bother or if you no longer require it, simply press the 音停止 (ototeishi, stop sound) button to end the noise.

3. Cleanse and Dry

Once done, activate the bidet or spray function for cleansing using the control panel.  Press おしり (oshiri, rear) to direct a stream of water at the precise spot that needs a good cleaning. If you need to do a front clean, pressing the やわらか (yawaraka) will provide gentler cleansing.

Take note that in some Japanese toilets, you can adjust the water pressure (suisei, 水勢) to suit your preference. Simply choose between 低 / 弱 (low/weak) or 高 / 強 (high/strong).

Right after washing, dry yourself to avoid infections. If the toilet you are using is equipped with a dry function, simply press the dry (乾燥, kanso) button to blow warm air to your rear or front. 

4. Flush the Toilet

After using the toilet, press the flush button on the control panel. Japanese toilets are designed to be water-efficient, so you may notice different flush options depending on your needs. Choose between 小 (small) or 大 (big), whichever is appropriate.

5. Exit the Toilet

Once you’ve completed your business, it’s time to exit the washlet. Some models feature an automated seat-closing feature for added convenience.

Japanese Toilet Etiquette

Understanding and respecting Japanese toilet etiquette is essential when using a washlet. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Maintain Cleanliness. Japanese restrooms are known for their cleanliness, and it’s essential to uphold this standard. Always make sure to flush the toilet, dispose of used toilet paper in the provided receptacle (rather than flushing it), and leave the toilet area spotless.
  • Be Mindful of Noise. Some washlets are equipped with features to mask any sounds you make while using the toilet. However, it’s still polite to be as quiet as possible, especially in public restrooms.
  • Follow Local Customs. When using toilets in Japan, be aware of the cultural norms. In many places, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering a bathroom. Additionally, you might encounter squat toilets in rural areas, so be prepared for different experiences.
  • Emergency Call Button. In case of an emergency, many Japanese toilets have an emergency call button located within the cubicle. This button can summon assistance if needed, providing an extra layer of safety.

The Future of Toilets

Japan’s dedication to innovation extends even to the most mundane aspects of life, like toilets. Their high-tech restrooms are a testament to their commitment to improving daily experiences. With ongoing advancements in technology, we can expect even more sophisticated and convenient features to be integrated into future washlet models.


In Japan, using a toilet is more than just a basic necessity; it’s an experience of technological wonder. Japanese toilets, or washlets, are packed with features designed to make your bathroom visits as comfortable and hygienic as possible. By following the steps outlined in this guide and adhering to Japanese toilet etiquette, you can confidently navigate the world of high-tech restrooms.

Remember, whether you encounter a Toto washlet or another brand of Japanese toilet, you’ll be in for a unique and pleasant bathroom experience. Embrace the future of toilets and enjoy your time in Japan.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Japanese toilets only found in Japan?

While Japanese toilets are most prevalent in Japan, you can also find them in some other countries, particularly in upscale hotels and establishments that cater to international tourists.

Do I need to bring my own toilet paper when using a Japanese toilet?

No, you don’t need to bring your own toilet paper. Japanese restrooms typically provide toilet paper for your convenience.

Are Japanese toilets difficult to use for non-Japanese speakers?

While some control panels may have labels in Japanese, many also feature symbols that are universally understood. Additionally, toilets in popular tourist areas often have instructions in multiple languages.

Are Japanese toilets available in public restrooms?

Yes, you can find Japanese toilets in public restrooms, such as those in train stations and malls.

Are Japanese toilets eco-friendly?

Yes, Japanese toilets are designed with water conservation in mind. They offer various flush options to minimize water usage, contributing to eco-friendliness.

Can I disable the automated functions if I prefer a more traditional toilet experience?

Yes, most Japanese toilets allow you to disable automated functions and use them like any other toilet if you prefer a simpler experience.

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