Moving Travel

True Confessions: I Don’t Know How to Use a Toilet

I seriously stood in the stall for about 5 minutes trying to figure out what I was looking at and how exactly to utilize it.

The first thing I learned when we arrived in Japan was that the toilet situation was going to be a little bit different from what we were used to. How different could it really be? I am from Kentucky and have used plenty of “out houses” over the years. My mother will tell you that as a child I had a fascination with bathrooms and every time we went somewhere I had to use/check-out the facilities. If we were at a relative’s house that had multiple bathrooms I was sure to go in every one. Fortunately, I out grew this and became less fond of doing my “business” in public restrooms.

Now that I am 30 weeks pregnant I really have no choice when it comes to going in a public restroom, considering I get the “urge” every 5 minutes. There are two types of toilets here in Japan. One is way more elaborate than anything I have ever seen in America and the other is the complete opposite, a whole in the ground. I have only had the pleasure of using the elaborate toilet once. I immediately fell in love with the heated seat. There is nothing I hate more than using an outdoor public restroom in the winter and sitting down on a cold seat. There is a panel of controls on the side of this Japanese toilet, which control the bidet (both wash and dry options). I knew I did not want to use that since I am pregnant, plus using a public bidet seems weird to me. I did, however, push a button on the panel assuming it was the flush, only to find out that it was an emergency alert button. By the time I pulled up my pants there were 3 Japanese men outside the door ready to help me. I assume this is a good feature if you have “fallen and can’t get up”, but a rather embarrassing feature if you are an American that does not read Japanese. I have later researched that the other buttons are for noise, which play sounds/music if you are embarrassed to have others hear you make your business. They really have thought of everything for this toilet.

This is how I felt looking at all the buttons

The majority of the public toilets in Japan are squat toilets (or at least the ones I have encountered), which absolutely blew my mind the first time I saw one. I seriously stood in the stall for about 5 minutes trying to figure out what I was looking at and how exactly to utilize it. I thought maybe I had accidentally gone into the men’s room at first because it resembles a urinal that is lying on the floor. Here is a picture I took yesterday at the zoo (I tried to get my feet in the bottom of the photo for reference) of a squat toilet.


I have “Googled” the best way to use this type of toilet and looked at several diagrams and have come to the conclusion that I have no idea what I am doing. True story: I pee on my own shoes every time! Let’s go over this diagram:

Photo Courtesy of Shiki Book

Steps 1 and 2 seem easy enough, but 3 is where I really start to have trouble. Step 3: Pull down your pants to ankle! How do ladies not pee all over their own pants? I don’t know about y’all, but I am not that accurate. Step 4: Squat down over bowl. Now it may be that I am very pregnant or my lack of leg muscles, but once I initiate Step 4 I usually go straight to the last step, which is to fall over. If you are going to make people squat, you might as well include a bar or something to hold on to. I can’t possibly be the only person that has trouble with this! My husband tells me that if I exercise more and do squats regularly then I would not have this problem. But even with stronger legs and core, that still leaves me with the fact that I have no control over where it goes while it is coming out. So if you have a better solution for me, please let me know. For now, I’ll be the one in the stall that completely undresses before going.

This is a real-life depiction of me every time!

5 replies on “True Confessions: I Don’t Know How to Use a Toilet”

Haha! I promise I’m not laughing at you.. I’m laughing *with* you! I, too, struggled with these when we went to Japan. Fortunately, the bathrooms I visited had diagrams right in the stall to show me how to use them. I also thought they were meant to be used only as a squatting urinal. I avoided them as long as I could.. then I came to a bathroom that had no other option. Once I actually used one, I found I actually kind of preferred them! They’re efficient, and you don’t have to touch anything.

It also helps that I camp a lot in the backwoods where there aren’t even outhouses. It was this that prompted me to google how to “pee in the woods,” as I had previously been forced to practically undress to not pee on my dropped drawers (men can’t possibly understand our struggles!).

I will say, that diagram will totally send you falling; you have to keep your weight over your feet!

Here’s how to do it properly:
1. Stand over the toilet
2. Drop your pants to your *knees* (not your ankles.. then you’d have your pants draped on the toilet – gross!)
3. Squat straight down over your feet, keeping balanced (carefully). I usually brace my elbows on my knees
4. Here’s the secret step! Grab your pants at the crotch and *pull them out of the way* (toward the front of the toilet)
5. Other secret step! Pivot your hips so you’re aiming downward – below your raised garments
6. Do your business, wipe, carefully stand back up, and redress

It might help to practice with a skirt or stretchy pants before graduating to jeans.

You can do this! I believe in you! 😀


Thank you for the tips! I will definitely have to give them a try. I think the most difficult part right now is being so pregnant with zero balance.

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I had to deal with a squat toilet when I was in Turkey, although it wasn’t as “high-tech”. It is definitely a memorable experience! 🙂

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