Japanese Twitter user reopens debate on Japanese-style squat toilet etiquette, but is it just a flush in the pan?

Japan may be famous for its all-singing, all-dancing “washlet” toilets with their warmed seats, auto-lifting lids and more buttons and nozzles than a fire engine wearing a cardigan, but the traditional Japanese-style toilet deserves to be equally well-known for its ability to puzzle and confuse even the people who are supposed to know how to use it, let alone foreign visitors.

Like a porcelain trough in the ground, the Japanese-style “squat” toilet has gradually been replaced by Western-style toilets but can still be found in places as diverse as public toilets in parks or motorway service stations and upscale department stores. You use the toilet by straddling it with one foot either side but which way should you be facing? Japanese Twitter user @mikaduki_neko reignited the online debate by suggesting that the origins of the “kinkakushi“, the hood-like part that covers the drainage hole, mean that you should be facing away from it rather than towards as most Japanese are taught.

According to @mikaduki_neko, the kinkakushi was originally a wooden stand where the hygiene-conscious samurai wanting to drop their kids off at the pool could safely hang their hakama skirt trousers up without them falling into the muck. Supposedly, another reason is that by doing your business at the end nearer the drainage hole you dirty less of the toilet, making for easier and less time-consuming cleaning.

Twitter user @snufkin_p countered with a picture taken from the Toto, Japan’s and indeed the world’s biggest producer of toilets and owners of the town of Kitakyushu’s premier toilet museum, website. The picture suggests the opposite, you should be facing the kinkakushi hood when you go. Or that when riding a giant slipper you should be facing forwards.

Educational posters for kids, like this one Twitter user @Akatki334 posted, also suggest the opposite, although I’m not sure putting a face on the kinkakushi and toilet paper is necessarily a good idea; I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye again after what I’d done to them.

Being an issue close to a number of hearts, Japanese social media users were quick to add their opinion.

“Ah! I’ve been getting it wrong the whole time!”
“Really? But if you want to do a number one wouldn’t it fly everywhere.”
“If you go straight into the drain hole end wouldn’t it make a loud plop sound that everyone could hear?”
“If so, why did the one with the ‘X” become normal?”

Of course it seems that while not everyone knows how to use a Japanese-style toilet correctly, if there is in fact an incorrect way to use it provided you don’t make a mess, there must also be people who aren’t familiar with the right way to use a Western-style toilet, if this sign from Kansai airport is anything to go by.

Still, despite the history of the kinkakushi and the Japanese squat-style toilet, Toto maintains that people should face the hood while squatting instead of away from it. While they may look intimidating, there are loads of reasons why squat toilets are actually great, but if you’re planning on wearing hakama when you use one, you may need to bring your own wooden stand to hang them up on.

Source: Twitter/@mikaduki_neko via jin115
Top image: Pakutaso