Western Toilets in Japan | Where to Find One When Needed

A tourist can’t find a western style toilet in Japan and needs to use a squat toilet

When you’re sliding into first
And your pants begin to burst
That’s diarrhea, diarrhea

— The Diarrhea Song

First up, allow me to apologize. If you haven’t already realized, this is going to be a pretty shitty article. Scatological puns aside though, the topic of this post is of the utmost importance. What’s so special about today? Well, we’ll be talking about how to find a western toilet in a pinch. You see, few things are worse than needing to drop a deuce only to come upon one of the unspeakable horrors pictured above. According to the Japanese, these so-called “squatters” are supposedly good for your health. I call bullshit! Regardless, these tortuous contraptions are a secret hidden terror for foreign tourists who are making a mad dash to the lavatory.

In recent days, Japan has become well-known globally for its glorious heated washlets that go as far as washing your behind for you. Nevertheless, much to the dismay of many, there still exists many a traditional toilet lurking in the shadows. Luckily though, with a little bit of clever ingenuity, it’s possible to completely skip having to get naked just so you don’t poop in your pants mid-squat. Be sure to keep the following tips in mind, especially when getting off the beaten path and exploring rural areas!

Option One: Convenience Stores

Convenience stores almost always have western style toilets in Japan

When you really gotta go, there’s simply no better option than finding a convenience store. Generally speaking, from Lawson to Family Mart, any of the many chains will have a western style toilet. That said, in my travels across Japan, one thing I’ve noted is that the country’s ubiquitous 7-Elevens almost always comes equipped with a high tech washlet. Keep this one in mind if you ever suffer the urgent need while on the go. Is it too late for a TMI warning?

Anyway, before moving on, a word to the wise; note that while these days 99.9% of all convenience stores in Japan will have a western style toilet, once in a blue moon you’ll open the door to a squatter. Consider it like a less lethal game of Russian roulette and graciously accept your fate…

Option Two: Office Buildings

Office buildings nearly always have western style toilets in Japan

Despite the luxury of having a convenience store on every block, you never know when disaster pants might strike. What’s one to do in such a situation? Well, in cases like these, one of my go-to backups is to find the nearest office building. In most cases, you’ll find the required facilities on the first floor lobby. Just look for the universal red and blue silhouettes that demarcate lavatories across the globe.

What to do if you’re stopped? Well, chances are high that you won’t be but my go-to excuse is to always say, “I have a meeting!” in English. Confronted with the terror of being spoken to in a foreign language, this will freeze any would-be inquirer in his or her tracks. Then, before they have the chance to recover from the initial shock, simply walk off towards the restrooms. Trust me, it works like a charm.

Option Three: Universal Accessible Toilets

Universal accessible restrooms always have western style toilets in Japan

Grab your canes folks! This next life hack is a total faux pas but really comes in handy in a pinch (or when you need to pinch a loaf as they say). Simply put, when it comes to public bathrooms, there is almost always a separate toilet for those with mobility impairments. While you’ll likely infuriate gramps waiting outside, these special facilities always have a traditional western toilet. Desperate times call for desperate measures!

What’s the deal with all these universal accessible toilet facilities you ask? Well, Japan was rather late to accommodate those with mobility challenges but the country has made great strides in recent years. With that said, do you really think all those old ladies can squat low enough for a Japanese toilet? Yeah, don’t be too quick to answer that one. Many of them are probably more fit than your cannot-even-squat ass!

Pro Tip—Prepare in Advance

Warcraft’s Illidan Stormrage says you’re not prepared in regards to western style toilets in Japan

So you boldly ventured off into the Japanese countryside without first taking a poop? Oh you poor fool. In these cases, your best bet is to look for the nearest convenience store and pray it isn’t one of the few without basic modern comforts. If there isn’t a store to be found, the train stations can usually be of assistance however the really rural facilities generally feature only squatters. Whatever you do, be sure to take care of mother nature before it comes a calling all of a sudden.

While this may be of little use, and especially so if you’ve just finished eating and already left, one tactic that I’ve often employed is to simply make use of restaurants. Generally speaking, most will have western style toilets on the premises as part of their service. Please don’t be that guy or gal who comes in just for the lavatory though. While such behavior is kosher in convenience stores, it is certainly not welcomed in sit down restaurants!

No Western Style Toilets Around

A public restroom has no western style toilets in Japan

Sometimes in life, there are things that are just unavoidable. As you may imagine, unfortunately this rule holds true for Japanese toilets. Ever so often, you may just have to make the best of a bad situation. After all, on a long enough timeline, the survival rate of everything drops to zero. What’s one supposed to do when the proverbial shit hits the fan? Well, for that, I’m just going to send you over to WikiHow’s walkthrough rather than gross you out with an in-depth guide on how to do the dung.

Before ending, I will leave you with one bit of invaluable and sensible advice. If this is your first time using a squatter, it might be wise to remove all garments covering your lower body. After all, as my father was often fond of saying, shit happens.

Until next time travelers…

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Donny Kimball
Donny Kimball

I'm a travel writer and freelance digital marketer who blogs about the sides of Japan that you can't find in the mainstream media.

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