Flush in Tokyo

The first thing you notice about Japan is how clean it is. The entire country is spotless. We never see one piece of litter. Not even in Tokyo, where no matter how busy the place is, the streets are litter free.

The second thing you notice about Japan is that there are no trash cans, litter bins or receptacles of any kind for your rubbish. How the hell does that work?

I think it goes back to the code of ethics the Japanese live by, a completely different code from the rest of the world. The Japanese are not very religious and do not believe in one God. Their ethics are not based on religion and the Ten Commandments.  Their ethics come from their society and their obligation to that society. What the society wants is what they all will do. That is their ethic. They will do nothing to upset the equilibrium of society. They will suppress their own desires and wishes if it is necessary in order to avoid offending anyone   So if society wants a litter free environment, then everyone will strive to give it to them. That is  how deeply ingrained their culture is.

So everyone takes their trash home. Empty water bottles,  fast food containers, newspapers, flyers, magazines, candy wrappers, bus tickets, everything gets put in a bag, pocket or whatever and taken home. It is so noticeable that even the tourists are shamed into doing the same. There is not one piece of litter anywhere.

Compare this to any other country where trash cans are provided. There is litter everywhere. If those countries took away the trash cans would things improve? I don’t think so, but it works in Japan. And, by the way, this saves Japan a great deal of money -they do not have to buy trash cans, they do not have to pay for their upkeep and more importantly they do not have to pay for a fleet of trucks and the people needed to empty them .

And it is not just the streets that are spotless.

The taxis are a totally novel experience. The taxi driver is immaculate in a crisp white shirt and tie and white gloves. And the gloves are really white, with not a mark on them. The seats are covered in white doilies fresh off your maiden aunt’s tea trolley


The first time a taxi opens its door for us we recoil in shock. It is so pristine that we daren’t enter and think about returning to the subway. The subway too is spotless. We never see a piece of paper on the train floor, a newspaper left on the seat, or an empty water bottle rolling between seats. But it doesn’t have doily seat covers

And then there are the toilets. If you want an indication of how fastidious the Japanese are, just look at the toilets (but be discreet). They too are spotless. It doesn’t matter whether it is a small toilet in a cafe or a huge busy public toilet in the street. And once again this is achieved despite, or perhaps because of, the total lack of trash cans. But in this case the lack of trash can also be attributed to the lack of paper towels or any other sort of towel to dry your hands on. While every toilet provides a washbasin, running water and soap, only a few offer those jet dry blowers, and none of them offers any alternative method of drying your hands. For such a fastidious nation, this seems very strange. I have yet to work out how one is supposed to dry one’s hands. There is obviously a system that I don’t know about but in the meantime the sides of my trousers have to do.

And while we are on the subject of toilets, I will just add that Japan gives their toilets the same treatment they give to stores and hotels. They too are fabulously stylish



They are so stylish that the Fabulosity Meter, not known for taking any interest in public toilets, actually starts ringing in the all white one

At this point I would ask you to spare a moment to ponder my plight. Should I really take a photograph inside a public toilet? What will people think? Taking a photograph while someone is actually using the toilet could lead to my early demise or at the very least incarceration,  but hanging around waiting for people to leave also has its problems. But my dedication to you, dear readers, comes first and I manage to take a quick snap in not one, but two toilets. Such is my desire to please.

And dear readers, while we are on the subjects of toilets, and continuing my desire to please, can I also suggest that  when you next come to Japan you should forget Mount Fuji, the temples, shrines and castles. Your primary experience should be the Japanese toilet seat.


Your nether regions will never receive such luxurious treatment anywhere else in the world. These seats will do just about everything you could possibly think of, and quite a lot that you wouldn’t begin to think of. They warm your bum which is rather cozy unless you accidentally turn the heat up too high and create a circular bright red burn mark making your posterior look like a target on a shooting range.

More importantly, these seats will wash you perfectly clean. You can choose whether you would like this task to be done by a jet or spray of water. Or you can try both to see which you feel gives the better result and the more pleasant experience. You can of course choose your desired temperature for said jet or spray.

Following this cleansing treatment, the seat will blow dry your now dripping rear end. All that it lacks is a puff of Johnson’s baby powder.  Although I suspect that will be available soon. There’s even an option to have swirling water in the toilet bowl while you perform the task that brought you here, and a volume control on the noise of the swirl, all designed to cover up any unfortunate sounds that you might make during this delicate operation.

The drawback to all of this luxury is that it can prolong your visit by several minutes or even longer should you so choose, leading to long harsh stares from the impatient queue that has formed outside your cubicle. But I find that a pleasant smile as you exit and saying “enjoy” to the next person can help alleviate the tension.

The other drawback is not so easily dealt with. All these options can only be achieved by operating a rather daunting control panel, which sometimes has English translations, and sometimes does not:

toilet seat handle

At this point, dear reader, I will offer you a piece of well earned advice. When approaching one of these toilet seats for the first time you might well be tempted to test what each control is for. In order to do this you will probably stand in front of the toilet and then lean over it in order to reach the panel.

DO NOT DO THIS. It will lead to you leaving the toilet with water dripping down your face and on to your shirt.

If this warning came to late, and you are already standing there with your face and shirt soaking wet,  you might now be tempted to insert your face and shoulders into the toilet bowl and turn on the blow drying action. This is not recommended either. It doesn’t work too well and you will find your self having to explain to others as you leave why your hairstyle is in such disarray.

When I started this blog I had no intention of writing 2000 words on toilets, let alone sharing with you 4 photos. A touch of verbal diarrhea, I fear!

I will try for a more enlightening topic next time.



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7 Responses to Flush in Tokyo

  1. awc49 says:

    ‘making your posterior look like a target on a shooting range.’
    Still laughing at the visual images assaulting my mind!
    Most educational, thank you…now hastening off to see where I can buy said seat!

  2. Baz says:

    Cleanliness has its place and is far preferable to squalor but Tokyo sounds a touch excessive not to say creepy in this respect. I remember driving through Switzerland and finding it extremely pristine compared to France and Italy which were both a bit shabby, but I know which two countries I’d be happy to live in and which one I wouldn’t. However, it would be worth travelling to Tokyo just to take a dump in one of those toilets.

  3. Bonnie says:

    Much more interesting that an expose on Shintoism.

  4. Tim says:

    You would not believe that in Australia of all places, a few years ago, North Sydney Council took away all of the rubbish bins – and miraculously most of the littering stopped too. Not all, but most – this is Australia after all! The people of North Sydney soon learned to take their rubbish away with them. I can’t comment on how messy the adjacent suburbs became.

  5. Roberta Sullivan says:

    Japanese toilets are very popular here in Hawaii. Most of the big hotels have them as do many homes.

  6. Judith says:

    Please explain in a subsequent blog the musical notes on the toilet button options. (Can you do so without using the word “toot”?)

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