A funny dunny

“From singing johns to heated commodes, Japan has long been number one when it comes to number two.” [Lonely Planet Guide to Japan, 2011].

Bathroom, loo, lavatory, WC, dunny, long drop, bog, commode, toilet….whatever you want to call it, this is the place where, in most countries, you go simply to relieve yourself.  In the west, it’s an upright “sit down” version, in the east a “squat” type sunk into the floor.  Japan has both.

The Japanese squat toilet is like most others in Asia, with the odd modification.

IMG_4120You will notice that it has a raised part at one end.  If you’re executing a number one, the idea is to face the raised side, lower yourself into  position with enough clearance, take aim and do the necessary.  This position is designed to minimise wetting the floor and everything else within close range, such as your clothing.  If you’re wondering about the bin in the corner, that is where you place soiled loo paper.  And the feet in the kangaroo socks are mine.

Amusing – and often challenging – as westerners find the squat toilet, it’s not where I wish to linger.  It is the western style, sit down version in Japan that captures the imagination of most visitors. For this is yet another example of Japan’s ingenuity in taking an ordinary western concept and turning it into something unique.

While I have no doubt that this is not the first post about the Japanese toilet – I commend you to Introvert Japan’s recent post “The miraculous Japanese toilet” – I am certain that it will also not be the last.

A few examples.

Our Tokyo hotel room toilet with its adjacent “armrest” of functions.


The spray and bidet jets are remarkably accurate, directed exactly to that part of the anatomy as depicted.  Nothing goes to waste.

A constant flow of warmth is pumped to the toilet seat in most models, one of the most endearing features of the Japanese toilet which, in my opinion, is worthy of its own ISO standard.


In confined quarters, wall mounted controls save space.


Our Kyoto hotel toilet.  Note addition of “flushing sound” function.


Push the button twice unless you enjoy the sound of unabated flushing.

Benesse House minimalistic design….


…with all the usual features plus a few others.  I  never got to figure out the purpose of the vertical buttons.


None of the above, however, compares with Sega’s development of the ‘toylet‘, a urinal that encourages men to take part in a series of contests by varying the strength and direction of their urine flow.

Each of the urinals is fitted with a pressure sensor in the bowl and a screen mounted on the wall above the unit.  Players can choose from five games, which are interspersed with advertisements for products and services. Sega hopes that users of these toilets will pay more attention to the adverts if they can also play games while using the facilities.

Only in Japan.


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A reason for going

My husband (M) and I had always wanted to travel to Japan.

In June 2012, Jetstar offered 60% discounts on a range of fares from Australia, including to Japan.  We had 72 hours to make a commitment and knew not to dither.

We arrived in Japan in April 2013 with hotel bookings in place, a three-week Japan Rail pass, Lonely Planet and Eye Witness guides, notes of discussions we’d had with friends and family who had previously travelled to the country, and enough Yen (we hoped) to last the trip.

Between us we had fewer than 10 words of Japanese, most of which resided with me.  The only word which M could consistently recall was “beer”, which took periodic care of our thirst.  I quickly memorised “arigato” (thank you), which was always gratefully received even if my pronunciation was often way off.

Our respective parents had travelled to Japan in the 1970’s on organised tours.  While there was much temptation to go down this path, we wanted to shape our own voyage of discovery in our own time.  We knew that this would make extra work for us, and it did.  But once mastered, each challenge brought with it its own particular rewards and much satisfaction that we’d figured things out for ourselves.

While we consider ourselves well-travelled, Japan is like no other place on earth that we’ve visited.  It is at once both familiar and yet unfamiliar.  I tell friends and family that it is like travelling overseas for the first time.  There are so many revelations.  At times, they can take your breath away.

Although I kept a travel diary, this blog does not set out to chronicle our daily movements.  Rather, it is about the things that impressed us, some of which you may not necessarily find in travel guides.

By contrast, I do not deliberately set out to exclude some of the many things for which Japan is famous.  If it’s not represented in this blog, that is because we didn’t have time to see it, or taste it (I’m too scared to try fugu) or weren’t travelling in the right season to experience  it.

I hope our enthusiasm for Japan will infuse this blog and that you will enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed being there.