Toire-wa doko ni ari masu-ka?

Amazing toilets

Literal translation is “Where does a toilet exist?” Luckily, in Tokyo, almost everywhere. If you are in need of the facilities, there are decent toilets to be found in many places such as department stores, coffee shops and train stations. The ones in department stores are usually quite lovely, many equipped with a handy baby/toddler chair (also good for umbrellas), baby change table and a fold down platform that provides you with a clean area upon which to stand should you need to change your clothes.

Japanese toilets are probably the best in the world sadly they don’t export the most majestic models but you can find lovely TOTO models in Canada. Even the base models, found in public places like train and bus stations, have automatic flush or an electronic flush activated by movement. Many also have heated seats, a built-in bidet (with controls for temperature, pressure and angle of water), a dryer and a recording to mask any embarrassing sounds you might make. There is also a toilet seat cleaner that automatically dispenses a spray of antiseptic for you to wipe the toilet seat; however, many higher-end toilets clean themselves after each use.

Most restrooms also offer at least one squat style toilet for those traditionalists who say it’s more hygienic as your body isn’t touching anything. Personally, I find it odd to see a squat toilet in a fancy washroom surrounded by marble and mahogany but hey, it’s great to have choices in life. If you’re feeling a little tired and in need of a rest, many restrooms in stores and museums offer sitting areas with comfy couches and make-up areas. Surprisingly there are no refreshments served.

The only thing missing in most train station restrooms is a hand dryer…which is usually a great opportunity to put all those packages of free Kleenex to use.

To-i-re wa, doku ni ari masu-ka? (Where is the toilet?)


The Japanese are master toilet makers. Ranging from the squatting version on the left to the high-tech Toto in the middle to the standard household model, they’ve got it all covered. The squat toilet was in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and was one traditional toilet amid a sea of Western ones. It’s actually fairly hygienic as you don’t actually touch it with your body anywhere…. The high-end Toto version was in the Loft department store in Shibuya and has a build in bidet function, a dryer (some still regard the use of toilet paper as incredibly dirty) and can play music or a fake flushing sound should you be making an embarrassing sound yourself that needs covering up. Sadly most of the instructions are in Japanese which makes it a little tricky. The toilet in our house is pretty standard for middle-class homes with the built-in tap on the top to wash your hands with the water that is FILLING the tank. Cold but better than nothing and also a good way to conserve water…. Personally I prefer the Totos with the heated seats that play music 😉

Our house…in the middle of our street

This is our hacienda in all its glory. Top left is the kitchen ‘storage’ and I use that term lightly. Daily grocery shopping is my life. Next is the view of the eating area from the front foyer. Top right is our bedroom…that’s my bed by the deck. Notice the laundry drying on the curtain rod. Electricity is expensive = air drying. Middle left is the bath/shower room–shared by 7 people. The idea is to clean yourself first then soak in the tub. Seeing as we’re not Japanese that doesn’t happen. Middle right photo is the living area and eating area also shared by seven people though most of the girls hang out in their rooms. Note the couches. This is a big deal. Many apartments don’t have such large spaces and definitely no couches. When I was here in 1990-91 I lived without a couch the whole time. Too old now for that sitting on the floor stuff. I make sure to sit on the couch at least once a day to express my gratitude. Bottom left is the washing machine which is immediately adjacent to the shower room. Next is me at the top of the stairs just by our bedroom door. Next is the entry hall with shoe storage (no shoes in the house) and finally, last but not least is one of our two toilet rooms. We’re in Shibuya which is a decent area and this apartment (flower shop on the bottom floor) is probably worth about $2 million dollars….

Snapshot of My Day

A day in the life…first of all, toilets. I think I could possibly write a book about toilets here in Japan. At least a post on toilets, but I’ll get some more photos first. For now, the toilet seat cleaner. It’s a movement detecting device so no touching anything icky and all you do is insert your little wad of TP underneath, wait for the spray and wipe the seat. Though it is entirely possible that the Japanese do it after they finish as well. I may never know the truth about this. Secondly, vending machines. Everywhere. The one in the photo is literally outside my door. I could go in my pyjamas. There’s a recycling bin right beside it because you are sort of expected to drink on the spot and not wander about offending people by drinking in public. Sadly I have learned it is no longer possible to buy vodka or any other spirits from vending machines due to a crackdown on underage drinking…but I can get it at the 7-11 across the street 😉 (more…)