13 Things You Need to Know About Japanese Toilets

The term ‘Japanese Toilet’ could mean two completely polar things. The first is a traditional Washiki ‘squat toilet’. The second is the hi-tech bidet with all its electronic features. Washiki can be flush or non-flush. In the latter, waste goes down a hole into the ground or septic tank.

Studies suggest it’s a more natural way to relieve yourself. The deep squat molds your lower internal organs into better positions. This makes toilet time faster while reducing hemorrhoids and soothing constipation. Here are a few more things you need to know about Japanese toilets.

1. You may still need toilet paper

Bidets are often marketed as an alternative to the regular flushing toilet. Because you rinse instead of wiping, you can save the trees! But you also know not all Number 2s are the same. Sometimes, you can’t rinse it all off, not even with new toilet technology and hot water.

Because most bidets have a flushing feature, it’s still safe to toss toilet paper down the bowl. So before turning on the hot nozzle, give yourself a quick wipe or two. Then you can finish the job with a deep-rinse bidet for front and back. If your toilet has a derrière drier, even better.

2. They can recycle water

Even if you have a small bladder and regular bowels, your bidet rinsing nozzle won’t get anywhere near 20 gallons, or even ten. And we’re not counting flush-water here, because both manual toilets and Japanese bidets use water closets, and both have water-conserving versions.

These dual-flush options using less than a gallon per flush. Other models have a sink fitted into the cistern or toilet tank. It’s a good compact toilet for small space. It allows more legroom than a free-standing sink, and gray water from hand-washing is repurposed for flushing.

3. Many models are ‘winterized’

One of the most frustrating things in the world getting out of warm undies and onto a cold toilet seat. Luckily, Japanese toilet seats are often warmed. Some allow you to select water temperature as well so that your flush-water and nozzle-rinse water feel nicer on your skin.

Toilet seats are coldest at night, so seat warmers are amazing for that midnight bathroom break. Some bidets include an automated under-seat nightlight. Meaning you don’t have to switch on the main light or feel the chill of upsetting seats, so you can quickly finish and fall back asleep.

4. You can turn almost any toilet into a bidet

Bidets ordinarily cost thousands of dollars to import and install. And with all those smart features, they’ll raise your utility bills. But many contemporary commodes can turn Japanese at a fraction of the cost. Just buy a bidet toilet seat with all its installation hardware included.

Some are DIY while others may need a plumber and electrician to set them up. Before you buy, make sure your current model fully is compatible. Measure your toilet too, especially seat diameter and bolt thread. Also, be sure you can afford the addition to your utility costs.

5. They save water

The assumption is Japanese toilets are water guzzlers. With all those nozzles and power flush features, they’d have to be. But – in comparison – it takes more water to manufacture a toilet roll (37 gallons) than to rinse off twice a day with a bidet. Even if the toilet paper pulp is recycled.

For this comparison, we’re matching one toilet paper roll against one week of bidet rinses, at roughly four times a day, using 1/8th of a gallon per bidet rinse. So if you use one toilet paper roll, per week, it’s equivalent to 4 gallons of bidet rinsing per week. If you’re unsure, just count the number of times you use the bathroom in a day, then multiply by 1/8th gallon per rinse.

6. Rinsing can get… complicated

The distinguishing factor for bidets is the bidet nozzle itself. That’s the water wand that slips out to clean your bottom. Depending on how advanced your toilet is, the wand could have water pressure settings like stream, pulse, spray, or massage functions.

Some can be repositioned for front or rear cleaning. This feature is sometimes labeled ‘female mode’. The nozzle is angled to better clean female anatomy, especially after Number 1s. Some wands have water warmers, others self-clean in ionized water or ultra-violet lights, or both.

If there’s a dryer function, it’s worth the extra cost. Nozzles leave your skin damp, so you may still need a toilet wipe. Otherwise, your undies will soon be unpleasantly damp, and you could catch something nasty! Built-in dryers leave your skin feeling warm and pampered.

7. It can be a puzzle…

Japanese Toilet

… but the internet is your friend. Luckily Japanese is a pictorial language. This means it’s fairly easy to look up a Japanese word, character, or symbol online to see what it means. But often, the toilet has four or five buttons used in multiple combinations. This can be confusing.

Many newer Japanese toilets have English translations for the Japanese symbols. Others allow you to switch the operating language to English, especially if the toilet has a touchpad. Also, watch video demos. Many have close-ups on the buttons to help you figure out what they do.

8. Some features work without power

Bidets are generally electric and digitally linked. You need power for the lights, flushing mechanism, refill valves, and advanced features. Digital connectivity is for BlueTooth speakers, Wifi, or remote functions. But if the power goes out, your toilet turns into an expensive bucket.

And because t’s super heavy and fused in place, you can’t even empty this bucket! So before you buy, be sure the most important functions (that’s the flush-and-refill mechanisms) have manual overrides. The bidet wand probably won’t, so make sure there’s always toilet paper nearby.

9. Bathroom slippers are bae

Toilet Slippers

You always use them in hotels and guestrooms, but you probably ignore them at home. After all, you know who uses your bathroom and how often it’s cleaned, so you’re probably less worried about the cleanliness of your bathroom floors. That said, Japanese toilets are wetter than most.

Given the bidet wand rinsers, automatic power flush functions, and settings for water temperature and pressure, there’s way more liquid splashing around. Some will get on the walls and floors and can cause nasty falls, so always wear bathroom slippers. Set aside a few designated pairs. Don’t wear them anywhere else in the house, and vice versa.

10. Triple-check the listing

If you’re buying your Japanese toilet online, be sure of what you’re buying. Many toilets come without toilet seats and wax rings. Others will sell you the bidet without the bowl. Still, others claim their bidet seat is ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it’s not. Don’t look at photos or instructions.

Instead, focus on the product description and shipping instructions. Photos often show the product in-situ, which means ‘in context’ So they will show a completed toilet in use even though the box may have assembly components – with several key ones missing.

11. Find the flush

This is one of the top things you need to know about Japanese toilets. They don’t typically have a flushing lever. They may have a push button or a touchpad. Some will flush automatically when you’re done, even while you’re still seated. Others use sensors to flush after you stand up.

When you first encounter the bidet – assuming you’re not too pressed – find the flusher and deodorizer. Before you figure out the fancy water jets and chromo-therapy, you want to be sure you can ‘get rid of evidence’. Ask your host if you must – it’s less embarrassing than not flushing.

12. Bidets can boost your bathroom privacy

Japanese Toilets

That seems strange, considering how dazzling their features are. But lots of us are self-conscious about the sound (and smells) of bathroom use. Some bidets have built-in speakers, so you can play your favorite tunes while camouflaging any potentially embarrassing noises.

Others – in true Japanese practicality – use more… ambient sounds. For example, you can program a ‘flushing sound’ to drown you out, even when you’re not actively flushing. Also, test the toilet (with your pants on) to see if you can easily reach the nozzle controls while seated.

13. Some bidets are coin-fed

This is especially true of older models. Remember, while we see bidets as relatively new-fangled things, they’ve been traced as far back as 17th Century Italy. So if you’re buying your bidet off eBay (as opposed to a hardware store or a toilet manufacturer’s website), check the photos.

Ask for videos is possible and insect product visuals from all angles. You don’t want to be stuck with a toilet that wants a penny for every pee. Also, fun fact: if the Japanese toilet you’re using is physically located in Japan, carry toilet paper. Public restrooms don’t always have toilet paper in their stalls. You can sometimes buy toilet paper from a bathroom vending machine.

Jarring Japan

The level of technology in Japan can be unsettling. Especially in seemingly simple things like toilets and toothbrushes. But as Japan exports her toilet tech around the world, Japanese toilets are starting to feel more and more normal. Their most popular distinguishing features are:

  • Heated, slow-closing lids.
  • A bidet nozzle for front and/or rear washing.
  • A built-in drier and deodorizer.
  • Automated flushing and/or seat closing based on motion detection.

What kind of commode is in your bathroom right now? Even if it’s not a bidet, we’d love to see it in the comments, so snap and share that bathroom selfie!

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