Doing your business in Japan has never been more comfortable. I mean using the restroom, or toilet to be specific. That's what the toilet companies would have you believe in Japan. The truth is a little more oblique however, and it holds true in all facets of living in a foreign country. So let's get to the seat of the matter, clean off the misconceptions, and see what washes up and what flushes away.
Perhaps you have seen in the news or on the internet that Japan has some of the most technologically advanced toilets in the world? Yes, that's right, toilets.
Some toilets in Japan come jam packed with all the comfort features you would expect from a porcelain throne. They have heated seats, washlets, bidets, will play music, will remove odor, will massage your backside, self clean, and so many other features you probably couldn't imagine. You might think that every visit to a restroom in Japan is an adventure in the comfort of doing your business, stylishly, and with such convenience that you may never have the need to leave the stalls for the entirety of your stay in Japan.
You may be surprised when you get to Japan and visit the nearest airport washroom. The toilets are so modern and amazing! Welcome to Japan. Or, should I say, welcome to modern Japan.
The truth is that these toilets are so new, and Japan's buildings and infrastructure are so old, this techno toiletry is the exception, not the rule. If you are on a visit and stick to the restrooms in the hotels and fancy restaurants, expect all the comfort Japan's freakish attention to comfort through technology can offer. Venture to live in Japan or travel the mass transit systems, and you may find a completely different story.
These techno-toilets are nice, but the simple fact is that they are expensive, and most places are not equipped with the space or plumbing to support them. The standard Japanese style toilet is little more than a hole in the floor. That's how the majority of Japanese do their business, squatting.
With the modern concern for handicapped and special needs peoples of the growing and aging population of Japan, there has been a mass conversion of the old squat style toilets to more convenient western style toilets, but it is still inevitable that you will visit a toilet in Japan that has not made that conversion yet.
What can you expect? Below is a video depicting a typical mall in Japan that has made the conversion, but still sports the old Japanese style toilets.
Most old homes and buildings still have the old squat style of toilets and you may need to expect it in some cases. Be aware of where you are. If the building or facility you are in is old you can expect, not only a squat toilet but also, in many cases, no heating in the restrooms either.
There are conversion kits to turn old toilets into more modern western style thrones, but the cost is often not considered by the majority of Japanese who feel quite comfortable using the squat toilets, as they have since they were children growing up.
In the end, Modern Japanese toilets are truly technological wonders, but most of Japan has not actually caught up to modern ways of construction much less technology. So while you will find some of the most amazing creature comforts and attention to convenience in newer buildings, you may also be forced to learn how the Japanese do business in the Japanese style as well. Keep that in mind when you make that decision to live in Japan, or tread the less beaten paths of Japan's tourist centers.
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