Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pooping there is half the fun

The owner and mastermind behind this blog, Mr. Blue Shoe, has touched upon the wonders of Japanese bathrooms before, but there are a few details he skipped (or perhaps feverishly pushed to the back of his subconscious, hoping they would never surface again).

My formal introduction to the Japanese toilet occurred in Tokyo. I had a small bit of time before my connecting flight to Osaka, so I decided to pop into the public restroom. The signs outside the bathrooms were in Japanese, but it was obvious that one sign was for the men's room (t'was blue, and showed a stick figure wearing pants), and the other sign was for the ladies room (pink sign, stick figure in a skirt). Didn't take a genius to figure this one out. So, I went to the men's side...and was greeted by a woman cleaning the sinks.


I backed out, and looked at the signs again. No, I...I couldn't have made a mistake. The sign is blue, and the stick figure is wearing pants. I stood there, contemplating the situation. Could it be that, in Japan, blue = feminine? Do Japanese stick figure men wear some kind of skirt I'm not familiar with? Where did I go wrong here? Regardless, I did the logical thing.

I loitered outside the bathroom until a Japanese guy went in, and I followed him.

Turns out I was right, and here was my first experience with culture shock in Japan. In America, a woman cleaning the men's room while it's open is a no-no, and vice versa. Imagine the lawsuits!

Oh, but it gets even more shocking for this foreign visitor. The Japanese man who I had followed, he proceeded to use one of the urinals...while the cleaning woman scrubbed the urinal right next to him. Who does that?? Did I accidentally walk onto the set of a poorly-written Japanese porno movie? I opted to use one of the three stalls. In my haste, I didn't notice the signs on the door to each stall (displaying, in Japanese, whether the toilet was a "Japanese-style" or "Western-style" toilet), and when I closed the door and looked around, there was....nothing. Well, not quite "nothing." There was a hole. In the ground. Made of porcelain.

Behold the wonders of the Japanese toilet:

And, for those gaijin (foreigners) not smart enough to figure out how a hole in the floor works, Tokyo airport has provided us with this easy-to-understand picture:

What did I tell you? Pooping there is half the fun.
The cleaning-woman-in-the-men's-bathroom incident should've prepared me for the discovery I made halfway into my stay in Japan. In Japan...the men's bathroom is not sacred. Now, the female bathrooms, in order to access them, you have to make your way through a labyrinth, battle a samurai, and answer three questions on the history of feudal Japan. But the men's rooms of Japan -- half of them didn't seem to have doors, let alone a urinal hidden from the general public. Seriously -- in many of the parks, temple grounds, and tourist areas, the men's rooms were very open; often, I'd be walking by, not even in the restroom itself, and be able to see men standing at the urinals. It all seemed a little too accessible. Perhaps it's just my American mentality as to what's taboo, but back home, I like being able to pee without throngs of people watching.
A few people, okay. But not throngs. A guy has his limits.
Thankfully, Mr. Blue Shoe has a "Western" toilet in his apartment, where I would be staying for the duration of my trip, and most public places offer stalls for both types of toilets, so I never had to experience first-hand (first-cheek?) the wonders of the Japanese toilet. My knees are bad enough as they are.
And I'd rather not know about the splash factor. The Japanese are a brave people, indeed.


  1. NOTHING I do seems to fix the HTML goof after the second photo, and it's pissing me off.

  2. Yeah, Blogger's formating can be rather annoying. I am exploring a possible solution.

    Nice expose' on the Japanese-style toilet. If you stay in Japan long enough you eventually run into a situation where you are left with no other choice but to use one of the squatter toilets for, uh...squatting. It's kind of a rite of passage. I'll never forget my first time.

  3. Very funny post! I won't go into details, but using the Japanese style toilet is quite the balancing act for untraiend ladies, also. I've only used the "squatty potty" 3 times myself.