|“Bathroom etiquette might seem universal, but there are quite a few differences in Japan that could surprise you. While modern hotels and cities that handle international visitors frequently are more accommodating to Western concepts, a trip to more traditional or rural areas – or even someone's house – requires knowledge of Japanese bathroom etiquette.” – writer, Umiko Sasaki, (Image source, Pinterest )|
Using Traditional Japanese and Western-Style Toilets
There's a big difference between a traditional Japanese toilet and the Western style to which Americans are accustomed. The Japanese toilet is sunken into the ground, with a hood covering part of it to prevent water from splashing up when you flush. To use it, you squat or kneel facing the hood with your legs on either side of the toilet. A lever or button near the hood flushes the toilet.
The Western-style toilet looks almost exactly as you would expect in Western countries but is often electronic and features several buttons with various wash and dry functions for men and women. If the seat feels warm when you sit down, it probably has a heated seat function. The traditional Japanese toilet is still used in the majority of public restrooms throughout Japan, but Western-style toilets are prevalent in metropolitan areas.
One function of the Western toilet in Japan is famous enough to warrant its own section. The Japanese, particularly women, consider it good manners to silence any sounds you make in the toilet stall. Because of this, many toilets have a Otohime or "Sound Princess" feature. The Otohime masks all sounds by replicating a toilet flushing. This also saves water, as the user doesn't have to flush the toilet more than necessary.
The Japanese take off their shoes when entering a private residence and put on house slippers. The bathroom is considered an entirely separate part of the house, and usually family members and guests are expected to take off their house slippers and use a pair of bathroom slippers when entering. Though it might seem a foreign concept to Western minds, it's an important factor when visiting a house or traditional Japanese hotel. Take off the bathroom slippers immediately upon exiting and put on your house slippers.
The Japanese Bath
If you stay in a modern hotel you sometimes have the option of a bathtub or shower, but in a homestay situation or more traditional hotel, you're expected to use the shower first to cleanse your body and the bathtub only for soaking purposes. Not only is it bad manners to wash yourself in the tub, but it's actually unsanitary. To conserve water, every member of the typical Japanese household bathes in the same water, only draining the tub when everyone is finished. By using soap and washing yourself in the bath, you disrespect the people who bathe after you.– By Umiko Sasaki for USA Today
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia