Created for expats living in Japan

How to use Japanese High-Tech Toilets

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Japan is known as a land of extremes, and even in modern-day urban Tokyo, you can find "washiki (Japanese-style, hole-in-the-ground)" toilets, and in extreme contrast, the high-tech toilets of today. Not only are the high-tech "yoshiki (Western-style)" toilets more comfortable, they are also more economical in the long run. While all the buttons and functions available may seem confusing at first, Japanese high-tech toilets are actually fairly easy to use! From the first time you sit down, till the moment you flush, here is our simple guide to help you go with the flow.

Japanese High-tech Toilets 101: A Simple Guide

Automatic Toilet Seat and Lid Lifter

Toto Washlet Apricot F3W 

You may be surprised at how good Japanese high-tech toilets are at anticipating your needs—even when you first walk in! Most of the newer toilets are equipped with a sensor that senses when someone is approaching and opens its lid automatically. While restaurants, health and beauty establishments have toilets with this option, as it is highly hygienic, it is not commonly seen in homes. In commercial establishments, if there is no lid lifter, there is usually some toilet seat cleaning product available.

Toilet seat cleaning products are available as wipes or sprays that are usually located 1) at the back of the toilet seat or 2) beside the tissue dispenser. You can use these to be more hygienic, especially at a public restroom, you can wipe the seat the down again if you want to be really polite for the next person.

Heated Toilet Seat

The dreaded midnight trip to the toilet during the cold winter days—wherein you sit and jump up again because of the freezing cold toilet seat—are over as  most high-tech toilets in Japan come with a heated toilet seats. The first touch is warm, pleasant, and soothing, just what you need for that cold-season relief.You can even adjust the amount of heat you want, and allows you to turn this function off in the summer.

Toilet Sounds

One of the first developments in the Japanese high-tech toilet trend is the"oto-hime," (sound princess). "Oto-hime" is a loop of soothing recorded sounds (usually of flowing water) used to mask offending sounds while you make use of the facilities. These are usually marked with the note symbol (♪) and can be found as one of the toilet buttons or as a separate device altogether. While first developed for women's public restrooms (hence the name princess), it is now widely available on most public toilets. Recent innovations include "timed" sounds that stop after 25 seconds as well as "adjustable volumes" to suit every need. Saving your dignity has never been this easy.


Developed in 1980 in an effort to cut down on toilet paper usage, the Washlet toilet is one of the pinnacles of "Cool Japanese products" and is now a standard feature in department stores, hotels, public toilets on expressways, and train stations among others. Some toilets have a bar on the side that houses the control panel, while others have the panel on the wall. In either case, the they share similar functions.

A warm shower washes your bottom with clean, warm water. Furthermore, you can adjust the position, range and intensity of the shower. Some functions include "bidet," "oshiri" (one's bottom) which is fairly self-explanatory, and "yawaraka" (soft,) which provides softer sprays. Depending on the model, some washlets may also have a warm blow-drying feature for after the shower.

Although the cleaning features that come with many Japanese high-tech toilets may seem uncomfortable or even intimidating at first, they can be addictive. Quite a few foreigners buy these and bring them home when they leave Japan, and there are rumors that some Hollywood celebrities have had them installed in their own homes. But don't take anyone's word for it—take a seat and see for yourself!

How to read Japanese words on the panel

Flush 大(Dai): full flush
小(Sho): half flush
Spray the bottom -
Bidet -
Soft wash -
Tomeru (Teishi)
Stop -
Water pressure 強(Kyô): Strong pressure
弱(Jaku): Weak pressure
Senjô ichi
Position 前(Mae): Forward
後(Ushiro): Rear
Ondo settei
Temperature 高(Kou): Forward
低(Tei): Rear
Seat -
Warm water -
Nozuru souji
Cleaning the nozzles -
Pawâ dasshû
Deodorizer -

Automatic Deodorizing and Automatic Fragrance Feature

Once you're done indulging in all the wonderful cleaning functions available and you're ready to get on with your day, some Japanese toilets will actually deodorize and release fragrance automatically once you stand up. In some other toilets, this is not an automatic function. Instead, a wall-mounted deodorizer releases an aromatic spray at certain predetermined times (or via a sensor), ensuring a refreshing smell at all times. This is most likely part of a separate cleaning system and is commonly seen throughout public restrooms in Japan.

Flush Functions (大 or 小)

Most people probably consider flushing to be a one push affair, not so with high-tech toilets in Japan. Though the setup may appear overly elaborate due to so many levers and buttons, there are actually only a few functions you need to know. Generally all high-tech toilets have the function of "大 - dai" (or big/full flush) or "小 - sho" (or small/half flush.) You can probably guess what these are alluding to.

Dai flushes would use approximately twice the amount of water that sho uses for those extra-strength flushing instances. While not yet common, "eco sho" conserves eve even more water than "sho." So what starts out as confusing turns out to be both innovative and ecological.

Another Innovation for High-Tech Toilets in Japan: Tank-less or Eco Toilet

A tank-less or eco toilet uses water directly from a water pipe to flush the toilet, and can clean the toilet bowl sufficiently with a smaller quantity of water. While this is less common in public restrooms, it is one of the standards for luxury home properties as it  (1) conserves water; (2) easier to clean; (3) has a sleek and modern design.