Japan is one of the cleanest, safest, and most convenient countries in the world. If you ask me where in Japan you could feel these points most, I would say, of course, the washing room. This time I want to tell several episodes of mine when I first came to Japan relative to the toilets.
Episode 1: Who “stole” the spare rolls in the toilet?
After graduating from university in my motherland, I came directly to work in Japan. My first Japanese company is located in a tall office building in the center of Tokyo. New country and new language, so exciting but in the meantime a lot of stress. In this case, I will always escape to the washing room in the office building to keep my mind calm.
The first surprising thing I found about the toilet is there is toilet paper there and a lot of their spare rolls in the small space in every booth. I thought it must be the company that kindly prepares these rolls for the employees, so after finishing the relaxing time, I just took one roll to my work desk to use as tissue paper.
Then one day, the CEO secretary happened to come to my desk talking about something. Her eyes fell on my desk and unwittingly focused on the roll. She said, “Oh, you like to use the roll instead of the case of tissue.”
“Nope,” I answered, “I just brought it from the toilet, thanks to the company making so many spares for us.”
There are always toilet papers and their spares in almost every toilet in Japan. Even if they are in the office building, they don’t belong to the specific company or person but are prepared by the property managing company for the public.
Episode 2: Press and flush.
After living a while in Japan and settling almost everything down, I invited my Mom to Tokyo. I used subways to show her around every corner of the city. When the first time she said she wanted to use the toilet in the subway station, I just said alright and waited outside. After a few minutes, I heard pretty loud sirens ringing through the hall, and at the same time, my Mom came out and said in a little confusing voice: “I just pressed to flush but have you heard the siren? What happened?”
Before I had time to detect the cause, a security guard ran to us and asked in Japanese in a hurry:” May I help you?!!”
There are a lot of buttons on the sidewalls of toilets in Japan.
Especially sometimes, there are two similar round buttons beside each other. In this case, one is for flushing, the other, which is always red or orange with Japanese characters “呼び出しボタン,” means emergency call button. It is for you to press when you need help in the toilet for example suddenly becoming sick and couldn’t stand up etc.
Episode 3: Take your time, or maybe not?
This is not an episode but something I found surprising.
You might think now that the washing room in Japan is so clean and comfortable, people must tend to use it longer on average than in other countries. But sometimes you will find a notice like below pasted on the door back of the private booth.
It means “if you stay in the toilet for more than 30minutes, the staff might come to knock on the door.” I think the most tricky part of this notice is the verb “might.” The staff might knock on the door but might not, which makes you have no chance but to be more “efficient.”
Of course, the staff is not interested in preventing you from taking your time in the washing room. They make this rule to 1. Find anybody who felt bad physically but was unable to make a call. 2. Be aware of any possibility of destructive behaviors like destroying the toilet or even terrorist activity.
I would say the washing room in Japan is beyond the level of public facilities. They should be called Art, which moved me so many times.