Guide to public toilet in Japan

(I have been thinking for fairly long how to tagged and categorized this topic…It’s definitely something you hardly see somewhere else rather than Japan, but can I say it’s Japanese culture?!! Well, anyway, I’ll think about it later so let’s leave that aside for now)

I first traveled to Japan 3 years ago. Although I have learnt a lot about Japan, I realized this country would never fail to surprise you, even its public toilets did such a good job! It’s true that I was amazed by them, I did wish someone to teach me how to use the toilets here in Japan, as I struggled quite a bit with my limited Japanese ability back then.
I grew up in Vietnam where, like most Asian countries, public toilets are a nightmare. Lately, with the increase in number of shopping centers, it is not too difficult to find cleaned one in large cities (I’m so thankful for this); America and Australia have pretty much same story, most public toilets are cleaned but they are nothing compared to the one in Japan! One simple reason, none of them are high-tech!

This very first one I would like to introduce is, the traditional Japanese style. You will find this kind of toilet very common in train stations.

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Guide to public toilet in Japan

Which way should I face to? Maybe you are not sure.


This is the right way. Face the toilet lever!




now… the hi-tech toilet, what are the functions?


While this might no longer be a rare item, it’s most likely that you won’t be able to find one at home or public toilets in any country rather than Japan.

‘But is it really necessary? Those buttons make it more complicated and inconvenient, don’t they?’ You might ask.
Don’t worry, once you learn how the high-tech toilet works, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to use normal toilet, ever again!

Let’s get started!


Recently, most panel comes with English instruction so there would be no problem for visitors. However, I found the translation a little confusing. The bidet function works on the same basic as a normal bidet, except you don’t have to move to a different place after using the toilet (pretty convenient right~)
However, what does the shower function do? Different from bidet, the spray from shower function is directly to the back, usually stronger and the spray radius is smaller. The stop button is often used to stop the sprays.

My Japanese teacher told me that many Japanese people hate hearing (and/or being heard) the sound when using toilet. That was why many kept flushing the toilet until they finished. This was indeed a waste of water. Therefore, in order to save water, the flushing sound function was created. This function is either accessible from the same panel with other functions as in the picture above; or from a separated sensor panel on the wall. The sound often goes off after 25 seconds and you can extend it whenever you want to

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Flushing toilet is also a problem sometimes. There are four way to flush the toilet here. The first and most common one is using the lever, which is located either upward or downward part on the back of a toilet. There would be no problem if all toilets had a lever! Some toilet is installed with an automatic flushing system. Those will come with a sign like this to inform you. Whenever you see the kanji ‘自動’, you would not have to worry about flushing when you finish. Just stand up, go half a step away from the toilet and let it do the rest!



Next is the sensor flushing system. Simply place your hand near the panel and that’s all!


If none of these options are available, there is only one left, the hidden flushing button.


First time seeing this kind of toilet in a small restaurant in Kyoto, it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to flush the toilet. I couldn’t find a lever or sensor system; and it did not flush by itself when I stood up…Struggling and panicking because I couldn’t get myself to ask the staffs how to flush it, and of course there was no way I could leave the toilet like that. So whenever you can’t seem to find a way to flush, look on top of the control panel.


The two buttons with blue dots are flushing function! Although the word is already faded, but the one on the left is 大, full-flush and 小, half-flush is on the right.

In addition, toilet seat with bidet function integrated is warm-up when the weather gets cold.
Not only these features, public toilets in Japan are also known for its cleanliness, almost odorless and plenty of spare toilet paper rolls!

Did anyone also struggle with Japanese toilet on your first trip here like me?


see you next blog!


For optional tour reservation and inquiry, please contact or visit one of our Tourist information center in Tokyo.

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3 thoughts on “Guide to public toilet in Japan

  1. Thank you for the detailed how-to guide.
    I have never had the chance of using these toilets and I have to say that they seem quite intimidating.
    One question: are they free ? in general, are public bathrooms free in Japan ?

    Liked by 1 person

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