The word for toilet in Japanese is toire (トイレ, pronounced 'to-ee-rey') but many prefer to use the more politely evasive o-te-arai (お手洗い; wash room) or keshōshitsu (化粧室; powder room).
Japan has few actual public toilets; most people prefer the privately maintained ones provided by train stations, tourist attractions, department stores, convenience stores and malls, which tend to be nicer.
Toilets are typically marked with generic gendered pictograms; but just in case, note the characters for female (女) and male (男).
Newer or recently redeveloped buildings may have 'multi-functional' (多機能; takinō) restrooms; these large, separate rooms are wheelchair accessible, may have nappy-changing or ostomate facilities, and are gender-neutral.
Increasingly, Japan's toilets are western-style (yōshiki; 洋式), often with fancy bidet features (these are called 'washlets'); however, you may still encounter a traditional squat toilet (washiki; 和式), especially in rural areas. When using a squat toilet, the correct position is facing the hood.
Toilet paper is usually present, but it's still a good idea to have a packet of tissues on hand.
Paper towels and hand dryers may or may not be present; most Japanese carry a handkerchief for use after washing their hands.
Separate toilet slippers will be provided in establishments where you take off your shoes at the entrance; they are typically just inside the toilet door. These are for use in the toilet area only, so remember to shuffle out of them when you leave.
Basic emergency coverage is adequate. Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online anytime – even if you’re already on the road.
The biggest threat to travellers is Japan's general aura of safety. It's wise to keep up the same level of caution and common sense that you would back home.
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