1. Adj.: Describing a person born between 1 Jan. 1946 and 31 Dec. 1964
2. Adj.: Description of a person, place or thing possessing Baby Boomer je ne sais quoi
3. See also, Boomer, Esq.: A Baby Boomer who is also a licensed attorney (See, e.g., About).

Flushing Sound???

by Suzanne Fluhr on October 2, 2010 · 22 comments

Japanese toilets
After a thirteen hour flight from Toronto, Canada to Japan, upon our arrival at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, I made my usual ladies room stop upon deplaning. This proved to be my first, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” moment of our trip. I assume that it is merely coincidental that “Toto” is the name of a popular Japanese toilet manufacturer.

Although my husband has cooled his heels waiting for me outside ladies rooms in airports all over the world, he could not imagine what was taking me so long. I had to explain to him that I was simply taken aback to find that using a Japanese toilet required some of the same skills employed in flying a space shuttle. I had to read the instructions! One is actually confronted by fine print with ominous looking diagrams on the back of the toilet seat.

After studying the control panel, I was quite sure I wasn’t going to be pushing any of the buttons, at least not before retrieving my luggage. I thought it would be prudent to have a change of clothes available before trying any of the water features (i.e. bidet, shower–at any strength). Actually, “flush” wasn’t one of the choices on the special control panel. That was “flushing sound”. Say what? I later learned that Japanese women can become embarrassed by bodily function sounds in public bathrooms, so Toto thoughtfully provides a “flushing sound” option to camouflage what might actually be going on. Since we had not yet even cleared Japanese Immigration control, I decided it would be wise not to be messing with the buttons labeled only in Japanese. Really, why did they translate only some of the buttons?? Was it a case of, “If you can’t understand the labels for these buttons, you have no business using them”?

Throughout our trip, I admit that I became somewhat obsessed by Japanese toilets. I suspect I’m not the only gai jin (foreigner) to have photographed a Japanese toilet. Fortunately, most Japanese toilet stalls are completely contained little rooms, thus sparing one the questioning looks (or rolling eyeballs) from fellow bathroom users that a camera flash might otherwise engender.
Some toilets had more features than others. I mean, you never know when you might have forgotten your watch and mobile phone and need to know what time it is. And, some toilets were clearly designed to be used by both genders, creating the need for identifying which functions would correspond to the anatomic idiosyncrasies of each sex. It was a relief to know that I did not run the risk of washing my “bottom” with the guy spray. Apparently, the Japanese have determined that “drying wet rear” is a unisex function.

Although the Japanese have clearly forged ahead of the rest of the developed world when it comes to toilet technology, I did come across some bathrooms which appeared to be set up to cater to even the toilet technology challenged. There were little diagrams on the outside of the stalls identifying the type of toilet available within: one could opt for a trough in the ground (honest), a regular non-high tech toilet or a toilet with all the bells and whistles.
Finally, there was the sad day when instead of being able to visit the excellent (I’m told) exhibits in the Tokyo National Museum, aberrant gastro-intestinal activity forced me to confine myself to the museum bathroom. So, there I was, actually in need of some bottom washing (and drying), and sure enough, the toilet button labels were all in Japanese. Fortunately, this was towards the end of our trip when I was more familiar with Japanese toilet possibilities. So, I took a deep breath, figured the situation couldn’t get any worse, and went with my gut.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacia October 3, 2010 at 4:24 pm



El Vagabundo October 12, 2010 at 10:36 am

happy now? 🙂


Ava Apollo May 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Now I know why the flushing sound button was on there. I didn’t really get it before…


Just One Boomer May 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm

You can learn a lot about a culture — from its toilets.


FANK June 17, 2012 at 5:52 pm

Hehe! I learned the fun of toelits when our work moved to a brand spanking new Eco-friendly building. I was so confused when I went to pee and saw two buttons on the wall what do I do? Haha! Funny post my dear :p.


Lee Levin-Friend July 9, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Very funny, Suzanne! I, also, was fascinated by Japanese toilets while there 8-)). I liked them so much that I inquired about having the heated seat/bidet variety shipped to home. At the time, the price was extraordinarily high. So, I just enjoyed while on vacation. I also photographed the traditional Japanese toilet/hole in the floor because of its unique simplicity and utilitarian function.

BTW, I consider myself a Boomer, even though I was born in 1945 (November). That date is close enough.
Best regards,
Lee (VE from Elkins Park)


Just One Boomer July 9, 2012 at 5:06 pm

Lee, thanks for reading and for your comment. I was pretty sure I wasn’t the only tourist taking toilet photos in Japan.

You are certainly welcome to consider yourself Boomeresque. Like the SSA, we don’t apply the age categories “mechanically in borderline situations.”. (Inside joke).


Jerome Shaw December 12, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Way to complex for me but good to have a heads up to take my camera to the loo.


Suzanne Fluhr December 12, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Jerome. If you do, you won’t be the first gai jin taking photos in the loo 🙂


Linda ~ Journey Jottings December 13, 2013 at 9:44 am

What an hilarious post!!
Just – too funny Suzanne 🙂
Maybe you could produce an e-book translating all the buttons for first-timers?!


santafetravelerssanta December 13, 2013 at 1:21 pm

I am a fan of the simple Toto toilets that I’ve found in the USA- I didn’t know they were from Japan. I’ve waxed on about them in hotel review posts- what I love is the self-closing lid. Not sure about the computerized versions- I’m low-tech in English. Japanese? Would love the flushing sound option in public loos- sometimes you just need it!


Suzanne Fluhr December 14, 2013 at 11:08 am

You can imagine trying to figure it out jet-lagged!


Patti December 13, 2013 at 10:44 pm

My first experience with a “not a toto” toilet was in Australia when I first came upon the 2-level flush toilet, which is nothing in comparison to what you experienced!


Suzanne Fluhr January 13, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Patti, maybe I’m just toilet technology challenged. I also had trouble with the first 2 level flush toilet I encountered (I don’t remember where or when). They really are a good idea for drought prone areas. I’ve never seen one in the US—which has plenty of drought prone areas.


Michelle da Silva Richmond December 14, 2013 at 9:56 am

Too funny! Very entertaining story.


Donna Hull December 14, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Our friends installed Japanese toilets in their Montana home. I especially like the heated seats.


Suzanne (Travelbunny) December 15, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I’ve heard about Japanese toilets like these before but it seems they’re getting more complicated by the week. How long before we can say ‘beam me up Scotty’ I wonder!


Ice Scream Mama April 13, 2014 at 8:02 am

ha! i might need to go to Japan now just for the toilets.


Carol Cassara April 13, 2014 at 10:24 am

Oh. my. God. So did you end up with the bidet button instead of the flush?
I don’t do well with diagrams…


Suzanne Fluhr April 13, 2014 at 4:56 pm

It was a little dicey. It made bathroom visits take quite a bit longer. First I had to figure out the buttons. Then I had to take a photo 😉


Shelley August 24, 2014 at 4:23 pm

In Jeju, South, Korea I wondered if I should be concerned that my husband was spending too much time with “Lulu” – the name of the fancy toilet in our hotel room. 🙂


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