Even after years of living in Japan, I’m always pleasantly surprised by how awesome the highway rest stops are. Not only do the larger ones have food courts and markets with all manner of local delicacies on offer, but the bathrooms are almost always incredibly clean.
Part of the thanks for all that shining porcelain goes to the hard-working cleaning crews, but you also can’t discount the Japanese cultural mindset that stresses not making trouble for others, which in turn keeps people conscious of the importance of using public restrooms in a way that leaves them clean for the next person.
But does this series of photos of cats sitting on toilets mean even the feline guests of Japanese rest stops have an advanced sense of courtesy?
Japan’s animal control policies aren’t quite as strict as those of the U.S., which is why the country has about a dozen land masses called “Cat Island.” Some cats are apparently drawn more to the open road than views of the open seas, however, and you can also sometimes find a handful of them at highway rest stops.
べーあん@パンジー (@09bean11) May 26, 2013
▼ Because the written portion of the driver’s test is so tough for them, cats have a hard time getting a license and usually end up just sort of hanging out, like they do at convenience stores.
熊谷 友宏 (@es_kumagai) December 01, 2014
But while they’re happy to loiter around outside during the more temperate times of the year, cats still get chilly in winter, so some of them head on inside in search of something that’s warmer on their paws and bellies than the air-cooled asphalt of the parking lot.
▼ The colorful illustration says “Welcome,” but the sour puss’ expression says “Don’t you dare try to move me.”
soma (@somatomo) February 20, 2013
▼ One of the rare times when a trip to the men’s room will elicit the response, “Ahhhh, isn’t that adorable?”
恐竜戦車 (@gentaraw) December 25, 2013
Sometimes, motorists find kitties not outside the restroom, though, but inside, such as this scene at the Dangozaka Rest Stop.
あじたま (@ajitama__) January 25, 2015
“There was such a long line for the restroom,” recalls Twitter user Ajitama, “and I really needed to go, but when I saw this kitty, I felt so mellow and relaxed, just like all the other women in line.”
That’s not the only image someone captured of a cat lounging regally on the throne, either.
So what gives? Has Japan’s kind treatment of strays produced some sort of mutual trust and respect, where the cats are observing and copying human behavior, politely dropping their excrement into the toilet so as to provide a pleasant environment for other travelers passing through the rest stop?
Not really. Remember a few months back, when we talked about how cats love kotatsu, the low-lying tables with attached heaters used in many Japanese homes in the winter? Well, it seems these cats have picked up on another way people in Japan deal with the cold of winter: heated toilet seats.
▼ As an added plus, since this is the ladies’ room, it’s unlikely any humans have marked that seat.
So it seems these cats might need a demonstration before they grasp the finer points of what those heated perches with the funny pools of water are really for. Once they do, maybe they can move on to their next technological challenge and figure out how to call a cab to take them to another rest stop.
▼ Keep trying, little buddy.
シャン (@syansky1030) May 29, 2013