Lonely Planet Writer

New instructions help tourists understand how to operate Japanese high-tech toilets

If you’ve been to Japan, you’ll know that Japanese toilets are among the most sophisticated and high-tech in the world. So much so, they can be confusing so a new initiative has been introduced to help baffled tourists work out how to operate them. Japan’s Restroom Industry Association has devised a set of eight standardised icons that manufacturers will implement to explain the toilets’ various functions to users.

Japanese toilets are confusing tourists. Image: Yoshikazu Suno/AFP/Getty Images
Japanese toilets are confusing tourists. Image: Yoshikazu Suno/AFP/Getty Images

This move came after a 2014 survey showed that 25% of tourists didn’t know how to use the controls on a Japanese-style toilet. As the 2020 Olympic Games are being held in Tokyo, the country is keen to make things easier for the influx of tourists that will descend on its capital. The icons represent eight different options, including large flush, small flush, toilet lid opening/closing, toilet seat opening/closing, stop, backside wash, bidet wash and dryer.

Japanese toilets are confusing tourists and these new standarised pictures will help. Image: Japan Restroom Industry Association
Japanese toilets are confusing tourists and these new standarised pictures will help. Image: Japan Restroom Industry Association

The nine companies in the association said they will use the same symbols for the function buttons on their toilets starting from April. They also aim to have them adopted as international standards. ‘We hope to welcome foreign tourists with clean toilets and spread them to the world,’ said Madoka Kitamura, head of the industry group, at the launch.

Japanese toilets are confusing tourists and these new standarised pictures will help. Image: JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images
Japanese toilets are confusing tourists and these new standarised pictures will help. Image: JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images

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