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Mike Vs. Japanese Toilets


Roam About Momma didn’t raise no dummy, but damn Japanese toilets are confusing/intimidating as hell…

After a 10 1/2 flight from LA, decompression hits my guts like so much airline food as I make my way to the bathroom via customs.

Round 1 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Flusher


Urinals on the left – pretty straight forward.

Stall Toilets on the right – no fucking clue.


Oh dear, master luke.

I trepidatiously enter the stall; buttons, trinkets, and blinkers go off, and when I lift the lid —which majestically starts ascending by itself mid lift — a little jingle plays, which sounds eerily similar to the muzak version of ‘A Whole New World’ from ‘Aladdin’. Nothing in this life will give you ‘stage fright’ quicker than Peabo Bryson’s porcelain pitch from the depths of a toilet hole.

Would you put your ass on a freshly cracked musical b-day card? No?

Then you probably wouldn’t put it on this toilet.

I balk, exiting the bathroom, gunning towards customs, putting a hold on #2.

1-0 Toilets

Round 2 Akasaka, Tokyo


First night in Tokyo is a blur after 5,200 miles +  of traveling, but me, Paul, Nastya, and Danny from DON’T TOUCH MY MUSTACHE end up at a 5-story Yakitori bar/restaurant on 413 in Akasaka. Danny orders us some sashimi, some Yakitori chicken, including hearts, cartilage, and crispy skin; my adventure-eating heart soars.

Some sake, more sake, Asahis, and then, as a taboo-kicker —raw, lean, delicious, horse meat to the dismay of anglo and euro protestors outside.

After a couple more beers—my walnut-sized bladder filled to capacity—I must use the little boys room.


Got it! Wait…

Danny gives me a three-second breakdown on which toilet to use.

The kanji on the bathroom doors obviously do not have the English words underneath in a traditional Japanese restaurant (nor should they). I spend a few moments using logical deduction:

Me: “Women have two x-chromosomes, and the kanji on the right has an X, therefore, my bathroom is on the left.”

Me: “You moron, chromosomes have nothing to do with kanji symbols. They didn’t know what chromosomes were when developing the written language.”

Me: “What do you mean by ‘They’? Are you saying Japanese are inferior people? Racist!”

Me: “Agenda-stroking pacifist!  Die hippie scum!”

I (unknowingly) go into the women’s room, open the stall and stare at the very alien squat toilet.


I just want to pee.

Stage fright again. The fear of doing something wrong locks up urethral intentions. I walk out of the stall, out of the bathroom, and thankfully, a drunk businessman stumbles out of the correct bathroom, where I find an upright urinal. Relieved, I pee whilst keeping an eye over my shoulder for ninjas.

1-1 tie-breaker

Final Round – Hotel Parcopresis.



Notice the brand name, Toto, giving a whole new meaning to the lyrics; ‘I blessed the rains down in Africa’.

This is an actual photo I took of the toilet control in my hotel which I didn’t notice until after I sat down to evacuate.

My first inclination is that the blue pictograms are shorn scrotums? Because it’s Japan! And Japanese are craaaaazy ’bout ball washing! I didn’t want to push the red pictogram because it’s a lady, and it looks like the rocket spray is firehosing her four feet off the ground.

Not pictured are the three extra buttons on top, befuddling me even more. For those counting at home, that makes 10 buttons to push to try to figure out how to flush.

Through Sherlock-esque deductive reasoning, I push the little top button.


The middle little button.

Nothing (that I know of).

I push the left scrotum button, and a whirring sound starts. Promising…

The whirring stops, and I’m hit directly in the anus with a hot, powerful stream of water. I have not only managed to turn the heat up on the stream, but velocity as well.

Shocking at first—being drilled in the butthole with such concentrated precision (phrasing)— after a minute or two of confused  submission, I realize it won’t stop unless provoked otherwise.


This is when I discover the top buttons are the actual ‘flushing’ mechanisms ( I would later be told one button is for ‘smaller flushing’ and the other for ‘large flushing’)

My whole life I’ve been told not to push “the red button”, but desperation sets in; my butt getting pruney. I hit the red button, and the stream thankfully stops. A retracting whir as the bidet arm subdues until the next adventure.

I’m mentally spent, feeling used, robbed of some unknown virginity.


Defeated, I decide to hit the showers. -Mike

82 Comments Post a comment
  1. Excellent post. I’m supremely jealous of your urination-related difficulties; I’d give anything to be confused and drunk with full bladder in Tokyo. Extra points for referencing my absolutely favourite Toto song, too.

    April 16, 2013
    • Dustandsoul,

      You have just inspired the name for my future biography: ‘Confused, drunk, and having to pee in Tokyo’. You shall receive royalties, but I can only pay in used clothing. Fair?

      You know, for majority of my life I thought it was ‘I kissed the rains down in Africa’.

      April 16, 2013
      • Deal! Funny you should say that, but I’m quite intrigued by a Japanese urban legend involving vending machines full of used schoolgirl panties. Can you confirm its authenticity? Then I’ll really be impressed.

        April 16, 2013
        • Sweet!
          Ok, I thought it was an urban legend as well, but I was absolutely assured it’s true. We even went on somewhat of a scuzzy scavenger hunt in one of the more sad/porny areas of Tokyo looking to get pictorial conformation, but like Sasquatch, we couldn’t find it.
          Apparently porn stars will wear the panties for a day, wrap it up, and give them to the vending machine man for distribution.

          April 16, 2013
          • Slippery little bugger, eh? Did you check on top of Mount Fuji? Spectacular effort, though – I do love a scuzzy scavenger hunt. You are now my new hero. Well done!

            April 16, 2013
            • I didn’t check up there! Damn. Such an obvious spot too.
              Excellent – welcome to the legion of scuzzy scavengers.

              April 16, 2013
  2. jan bukach #

    Guess I’ll be the first to comment. Glad to have you back to now entertain us thru your tour of Japan. This, being your first blog about it, made me laugh outloud, that last picture especially. You are too funny my son. 🙂

    April 16, 2013
    • Thanks, Roam About Mom. You may have to suffer through a three hour slide show presentation on Japan.

      April 16, 2013
  3. I just read this to Danny and had a good giggle out of it. I would have felt used and abused too!
    Do they have those glass-doored bathrooms? That could be really humiliating!

    April 16, 2013
    • Hey Susie!

      I still feel kind of used, but my nethers were never so clean!
      There was one major positive I neglected to write about, and that’s the heated toilet seats. Seriously, the greatest invention of all time. Especially on those cold mornings…

      The bathroom door at my hotel was glass, but I didn’t see that anywhere else. At another hotel, the public toilets had no stalls at all – just open seating.

      April 16, 2013
      • General admission, standing or squatting room only according to one of my friends. GROSS!

        April 16, 2013
        • I’m pretty outgoing – as you are (I’m sure), there’s no way I could do it. No no no.

          April 16, 2013
  4. For gawd’s sake, Mike this make me cough up my green flax smoothie. After eating horsemeat, cartilage and who knows what else while swilling it down some sake, no wonder you had a date with a Japanese toilet. Sounds as if you made friends with it or at least had a really great one-night stand. Good on you.

    April 16, 2013
    • I’m sorry, Brigitte. 🙂
      How is the green flax smoothie?

      Haha – I have to say, I never once had ill-effects from eating the food. I only had a stomach ache upon my return to the States, eating ‘In and Out’ burger in LA. Good figure.

      Thanks for supporting my return!

      April 16, 2013
  5. Nathaniel Hahn #

    The Return of Roam About…nothing short of brilliant! Love the last picture, haha….if ever I travel to Japan…I’ll have to sign up for the class you should be teaching in toilet logistics!

    April 16, 2013
    • Thank you, sir.
      I am now the Stephen Hawking of Japanese toilets. So, when you head over there to study raccoon dogs, I can be cultural ambassador.

      April 16, 2013
  6. How cool is this? Good job, nice post.

    April 16, 2013
    • I think 8/10 cool points. Maybe even 8.5. Not 9 though, I’m still rusty.
      Thank you, Shade of Red.

      April 16, 2013
  7. I think if I go to Japan I am wearing diapers.

    April 16, 2013
    • Carrie,
      Good idea – doubles as a reasonable fashion statement as well. Will catch on like wild fire!

      April 16, 2013
  8. Weeping in laughter. The first time I flew to New York I did the same thing. Well not exactly. You see I’d never experienced self flushing loos before. I sat down and somehow set off the sensor. Then I screamed. And set if off again. So, I screamed. And everybody just laughed.

    April 16, 2013
    • Hahaha! – that’s very funny, victoriabruce. Sorry you had to figure out the sensor in such a traumatic way. They should have warned you!

      April 17, 2013
      • Yes, someone should have! Assuming third world country residents have auto flushing is not cool. However, if there is ever anywhere that needs auto-flushing it is here.

        April 17, 2013
  9. Le Clown #

    I laughed so much I made everyone around me cough up something viscous.
    Le Clown
    PS: Now you’re ready for our Canadian toilet, where when flushed, the water spins he other way.

    April 17, 2013
    • At least it wasn’t something viscus…

      Can’t wait to give it a whirl. I have been to Windsor, the shining ambassador to Canada, and the toilets flush the correct way there. Please explain.

      April 17, 2013
      • Le Clown #

        My feeling on this is that someone should explain why the fuck they would ever go to Windsor…
        Le Clown

        April 17, 2013
        • I was 18, and bored (redundant?).

          April 17, 2013
        • Oh, and I heard the old women at the casino were easy.

          April 17, 2013
  10. Robbed of some unknown virginity… good one. What a baffling bidet adventure! I love how the ladies’ squatter room had pink covers on the toilet paper… lest they be visually offensive just sitting there, referencing a private did. Did they have little Anime, I wonder?

    April 17, 2013
    • Yes, Laura, something has been taken from me, but I don’t know what.
      I think they were Hello Kitty, or Anime characters – I got out of there fast.
      Weird question – have you ever made a clay toilet?

      April 17, 2013
      • Weird answer: My dentist once asked me to make a clay toilet urn for his dog’s ashes… I was game but he never followed thru, so. No, not technically 🙂

        April 17, 2013
        • Really? That’s kind of cool, why didn’t he pull the trigger?

          If I had a cob house, i would definitely need a clay toilet. Would that even work?

          April 18, 2013
          • What’s a cob house? And Mike, toilets already are clay… porcelain. Except for the seat, which is normally plastic but I understand from your little lady that you prefer astroturf. I didn’t ask questions.

            I don’t know re: dentist. He’s bald and flakey, what can I say… I guess his dog’s favorite place was the toilet, so that’s where the brilliant idea came from. I would’ve traded for a crown or something. Veneers, maybe.

            April 18, 2013
              Cob house is an awesome house. Like a hobbit house.

              I realize I know nothing about clay, or porcelain, and need teaching.

              Haha, I just threw away the massive astroturf rug. Gross. Just gross. It had mold, and ants, and gross.

              April 19, 2013
          • I just realized… you mean a functioning toilet? Like a composting toilet? I thought you meant a figurine….

            April 19, 2013
            • More flushing toilet. For me to sits, and poops.

              April 19, 2013
  11. E. #

    Glad you’re back! Also glad I’ve never had to figure out a Japanese toilet. When I was in Italy, and toilets were hard to come by, I developed an “Italy bladder”, but since I’ve been back in the US, I’ve been spoiled by the over-abundance of free and easy-to-use toilets. I’d be in trouble in Japan for sure!

    April 17, 2013
    • Hahaha “Italy Bladder”. I like that.
      There are a lot of public toilets in Japan, it’s just an adventure figuring out what goes where, and how, which, is the same as none at all I suppose.
      Thanks, E!

      April 18, 2013
  12. “Relieved, I pee whilst keeping an eye over my shoulder for ninjas.” Following your blog start to sound like a good move.

    April 19, 2013
    • Ninjas beware; Alice is on my side…
      Thank you, thank you.

      April 19, 2013
  13. I’ve only been to Japan twice – both times at Narita Airport on the way to other countries. I share your complete confusion and amazement. So many buttons, so little time.

    April 19, 2013
    • Cleanest, yet most confusing toilets in the world.
      A conundrum, indeed.
      Thanks, Battlewagon!

      April 21, 2013
  14. I loved your post. It is both educational, entertaining, and funny. Love getting to see the pictures.

    April 23, 2013
    • Thanks, Inkspot.
      It was certainly an education for me – glad I could pass along the warnings. 🙂

      April 24, 2013
  15. Hilarious post!

    April 24, 2013
  16. I laughed heartily! Your report is humor.
    By the way, was usage found? 🙂

    April 25, 2013
  17. This has got to be the funniest post I ever read. Had me in stitches and tears! 😀 This is great ROAM ABOUT MIKE.

    I too had to rack the brains deciphering the different buttons. I never did touch any. I wasn’t as adventurous as you.

    May 22, 2013
    • Why, thank you very much, ballerina95.

      You’ve been to Japan?

      May 22, 2013
      • It’s a short 4hr trip from my country. Short trips every so often 🙂 And yet, I still do not dare touch the gadgets.

        One time I went inside a unisex bathroom. Ladies to the left, Gentlemen to the right and no dividing WALLS, no STALLS!! No thanks, I held it till the next stop. 😀

        May 23, 2013
        • Hahaha. Well, lucky you being 4 hours from Japan!

          Really? Is that even legal? I mean, I’ve been in a unisex bathroom before, but no walls or stalls seems….pervy. I don’t blame you!

          May 23, 2013
  18. And the last photo simply takes the cake. Best laugh in a long time.

    May 22, 2013
    • Nothing like sitting down to take a shower. 🙂

      May 22, 2013
      • mwahahaha. Can’t wait til I have enough free time to read all your posts.

        May 23, 2013
        • Well, stay away from the early writings, pretty boring in hindsight. Didn’t really know what I was doing…

          May 23, 2013
  19. My parents are Japanese and when I went to Japan about three years ago, my mom would ask “So you were taking photos of the toilets AGAIN?” I was absolutely enthralled. FYI, the button on the left says “oshiri” which means “butt”, next is “yawaraka” which is “soft” and the last is “bide” or “bidet”. Buttspray, soft spray and bidet mode. Basically.

    Here’s my own post on the topic.

    Can I just say if I had the money it would take to get this installed in my house, I would do it in a heartbeat, Japanese signs and all?

    May 23, 2013
    • Haha luckily no one caught me snapping pics of the toilets.
      Well, now I know for next time.

      Absolutely agree. I would absolutely buy a Japanese toilet in a heartbeat.

      Thanks, tauromaja!

      May 23, 2013
      • Next time, snap pics! Hey, I have a question: do the men’s toilets have that cascade sound as well? Or is that specific to the ladies room? It just dawned upon me that I don’t know.

        May 23, 2013
        • One of them did play music, but I think it was a uni-sex bathroom. Or, I was in the ladies room (again). whoops.

          May 25, 2013
          • Are you sure you’re not wandering in on purpose?


            May 25, 2013
          • And I think they should do a Godzilla version of the title of your post. Use stop-motion for the attacking toilets wandering down the streets of Tokyo.

            I can imagine some pretty hilarious things for that scenario!

            May 25, 2013
            • Bwahaha! Excellent, wonder what Tim Burton is up to these days…

              May 27, 2013
              • I think I’ll write it and see if he’ll like it. 🙂

                May 27, 2013
  20. This is hilarious man. Nice blog.

    Wait till you use the toilets in India though!

    June 23, 2013
  21. Haha, AWESOME 🙂 And I love the selfie at the very end. I think before I get myself to Japan, I’ll read up specifically on ‘toilet instructions’. My command of the Japanese language stops at Kanji, and I don’t have potty vocabulary thus far. Gotta work on that.

    September 18, 2015
    • It’s way more fun just diving in and figuring it out during bathroom time. 🙂

      September 22, 2015
      • I’m trying to learn ahead of time, but I’ll definitely have a chuckle trying to still figure the rest out in person when the time comes lol.

        September 23, 2015
  22. Women cross their legs when they sit. Dudes just stretch it all out like nobody’s business. Simple way to tell the two kanjis for gender apart. 🙂

    November 6, 2015
    • You kind of just blew my mind a little bit. That’s an amazing mnemonic, Thessauron!

      November 6, 2015

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