If you’ve gone your whole life using the standard flush-style toilet, then you might be in for a bit of a shock when you visit Japan and see your first bidet toilet.
The various buttons and settings on Japanese bidets can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re not proficient at reading Japanese. But don’t worry; you’re not alone. Many travelers and tourists visiting Japan face this uncertainty, which is why we’re here to help.
In this article, we will show you how to use a bidet when travelling to Japan. As you read, you’ll learn what all the standard bidet’s symbol’s mean, what settings to expect, and how best to use them.
A bit of useless information: While I was working as a Bellman at a fancy five star hotel in Downtown Dubai, I actually provided Room Orientation in Japanese to Honeymooners and Business people, showing them all the luxury features that the room had to offer, but I digress.
We will also discuss variations in Japanese bidets, so you know exactly what to do every time.
Assess The Bidet
The last thing anyone wants when visiting Japan is to ask a local how to use the toilet, so we’re going to give you all the information we can to ensure that doesn’t happen to you, starting with assessing what kind of bidet you’re facing.
While Japanese bidet toilets will all have the same primary functions, they are not all designed the same. One of the first things you’ll want to do is determine where the bidet’s control panel is located and how this might affect the bidet’s functions.
Most Japanese bidets will place the control panel in one of two locations: on the wall next to the bidet or directly attached to the bowl or side of the bidet.
However, if you are visiting a private residence, you might notice neither of these options are present. If that is the case, it is likely the bidet is controlled via a remote controller.
Keep An Eye Out For Toilet Slippers
A quick cultural note to make here is that if you are using a bidet in a private residence, make sure you confirm if you should be wearing toilet slippers (トイレスリッパ or toire surippa). (Link)
These are slippers that are often placed just inside the bathroom or outside on a mat that are specifically worn in the bathroom to reduce the spread of bacteria from the bathroom floor to the rest of the home. You might even see them in select public restrooms or hotels.
If they are present, you’ll want to slip them on before entering the bathroom, and then remove them before walking around outside it.
Look For Lid And Seat Settings
Japanese bidets are constantly improving with new settings to make them as comfortable and luxurious as possible.
In 2017, the Japanese toilet industry agreed to standardize complex bidet controls for additional ease of use, and two of the settings found among the list control the bidet’s lid and seat. (Link)
While lid and seat settings are not seen on most bidets, they are common in finer establishments like restaurants, hotels, and businesses, and are becoming more popular since their addition to this standardized list of controls.
Therefore, they should be one of the first settings you quickly look for before sitting down.
The two lid and seat settings you might see on a bidet are:
|Toilet lid opening and closing||benfuta kaihei||Toilet with double sided arrow on lid||便ふた 開閉|
|Toilet seat opening and closing||benza kaihei||Toilet with double sided arrow on seat||便座 開閉|
As you can guess, these settings control whether the bidet’s lid and seat are open or closed, so if you see them, you’ll want to utilize the controls before reaching to lift the lid or seat yourself.
Of course, if you don’t see them on the bidet’s control panel, then you don’t need to worry about them and can go ahead and lift the lid or the seat and do whatever you need to on the toilet.
Sit Down And Get Familiar With The Core Settings
Now that your seat is ready, you can sit down and familiarize yourself with the core settings found on most, if not, all Japanese bidet toilets.
If you identify as male and don’t need to sit, then you can go about your #1 business and skip to the flushing step.
The core settings you need to know, apart from flushing (we’ll cover these later), to use a Japanese bidet include:
|Buttocks rinse/ rear cleansing||oshiri senjō||Bold “W” on top of a dotted “Y”. Some also say it looks like a tulip/flower||おしり 洗浄|
|Bidet rinse/ front cleansing||bide senjō||Female sitting atop a dotted “Y” or inverted triangle. Sometimes will appear as a woman’s head or figure.||ビデ 洗浄|
|Stop||tomaru||Red or black rectangle||止|
|Dry||kansō||Three wavy, horizontal lines||乾燥|
After you’ve gone about your business, you can select whatever setting(s) match your needs and preferences.
If you’re unsure about any of the settings listed above, we’ve described the function of each in more detail below or you can click on this video. (Link)
Buttocks Rinse/Rear Cleansing (おしり)
One of the most important distinctions you need to know regarding a Japanese bidet toilet is the difference between the buttocks rinse/rear cleansing setting and the bidet rinse/front cleansing.
These two setting will dictate the cleansing nozzle’s angle and/or location which affects where it sprays underneath you.
The buttocks rinse/rear cleansing setting is located further back and is more of a universal defecation setting to cleanse your rear using a pressurized stream of water.
For sanitary purposes, this cleansing nozzle stays covered inside the toilet until a setting is selected to activate it.
Many are also equipped with a sanitation function to keep the wand clean between uses and a light sensor that ensures that the function won’t start unless the sensor is blocked (implying someone is sitting there).
Bidet Rinse/Front Cleansing (ビデ )
Despite these luxurious Japanese toilets being referred to as “bidets” not everyone actually uses the bidet setting.
The difference between the bidet setting and the buttocks rinse is that the bidet setting is specifically tailored towards the female anatomy.
Therefore, when you select this setting, the cleansing nozzle’s angle and/or location moves up to spray where they would urinate.
This setting is pretty self-explanatory. If, at any point, you want to stop a bidet toilet’s setting (maybe you’re finished with it or have selected the wrong option) you would press the “stop” button to end it.
The dry setting is probably the only setting that might not appear on every bidet, but the odds are encountering it are relatively high, especially after it was added to the standardized controls list.
Choosing this setting will activate a dryer device located inside the bidet toilet that will help dry your rear. This can be used in place of toilet paper or as a primary drying method to help further reduce toilet paper use.
Select Additional Settings For Increased Comfort And Efficiency
While you should be able to use a Japanese bidet toilet properly by just knowing the core and flush settings, there are several additional settings most are equipped with that can heighten the experience.
These settings are entirely optional, but you might find that using them significantly increases your comfort and cleaning efficiency.
Additional Japanese bidet toilet settings you might encounter include:
||Usually only text
||Usually only text
|Deodorization||dasshū||Usually only text||脱臭|
|Modesty Sound||otohime||Text or a music symbol||音姫|
|Water Temperature||onsui||Usually only text||温水|
|Massage||massaaji||Usually only text||マッサージ|
When it comes to public toilets, these are the additional settings you’re most likely to see.
However, if you’re using a privately owned Japanese bidet toilet found in someone’s home, for example, you might see additional settings we won’t discuss, like seat heating, seat elevation, gentle cycles, etc.
Again, we are going to discuss these settings in a little more detail below to help you feel confident using them if you wish.
Water Pressure (水勢)
Many Japanese bidet toilets will offer you settings to alter the nozzle’s water pressure.
This customization option allows you to find the pressure that is most comfortable and efficient for you.
For example, if you’re new to using a Japanese bidet toilet, you might be hesitant to its rear cleaning features. In these cases, it is highly recommended to start with a lower water pressure until you are used to the sensation.
Alternatively, if you need extra cleaning power or a quick clean, you can increase the water pressure.
Most Japanese toilet bidets will provide two buttons featuring a (+/-) symbols to increase and decrease pressure, but you might also see text for high/low, increase/decrease, strong/weak, 高/低, so knowing how to read Japanese can be helpful here.
Nozzle Position (ノズル位置)
Another customization option you might see is altering the Japanese bidet toilet’s nozzle position beyond the standard rear cleanse and bidet options.
Again, this is to ensure the best and most comfortable clean and is usually paired with a (+/-) symbol or high/low text, but you might also see text for forward/backward (前／後)
You probably won’t come across this setting too often, but it never hurts to be able to recognize it when you do see it on the Japanese bidet toilet you’re using.
The deodorization setting is used to help remove any odors that might have been created while using the facility.
Modesty Sound (音姫)
This interesting setting is also fondly referred to as the “sound princess” and its sole purpose is to help you feel less self-conscious during your noisier bathroom activities.
When you select this setting, the Japanese bidet toilet will create a sound (it is usually identical to the sound of flushing) to help cover up any noises you don’t want individuals outside the room or stall to hear.
This setting was originally created because research found that people would opt to physically flush the toilet instead to cover their noises, which wasted water. Therefore, this is a more environmentally friendly alternative.
Water Temperature (温水)
A favorite setting among Japanese bidet toilet users is the water temperature setting.
You’ll see this paired with similar settings as water pressure and nozzle position, but might see text for hotter/colder as well.
Usually, people will increase their toilet’s water temperature for a more comfortable clean, but after an evening of eating spicy foods, you might find a colder setting is the way to go.
An interesting setting that even some Japanese residents are reluctant to use is the massage setting. Most will state this is because they have never used this setting before and are uncertain what to expect. Luckily, there’s nothing to fear here.
The massage setting on any Japanese bidet toilet will simply emit water from the nozzle in a pulsating rhythm that is supposed to be soothing.
It is purely a luxury setting that has little functional purpose other than feeling pleasant.
Flush The Toilet When You’re Finished
We’ve gone over nearly every setting you’re likely to see and use when on a Japanese bidet toilet.
After you’ve rinsed, wiped, and utilized every hygiene or drying method, the time has come to flush and exit the bathroom.
Most Japanese bidet toilets are equipped with two, maybe three, flushing options. These include:
|Flush (large)||benkisenjō (dai)||Large whirlpool or swirl||便器洗浄（大）|
|Flush (small)||benkisenjō (shō)||Small whirlpool or swirl||便器洗浄（小）|
The option you choose will depend on how much water you think you need to flush.
Small or liquid bowel movements are ideal for the smaller flush option whereas messier or larger solid movements will require the larger flush option. You might also see a third Eco-flush option you can use to be especially eco-friendly.
Some Japanese facilities won’t provide these flush options at all, but rather, are equipped with a motion sensor on the wall that will flush the toilet when you wave your hand over it, so be on the lookout for these as well.
Using a Japanese bidet toilet might seem a bit daunting your first time, but with a little practice and knowledge of the core settings, you should get the hang of it in no time.
The best thing you can do to make this process easier is learn how to read common Japanese bidet toilet text, as these can vary slightly.
Luckily, the essential settings tend to be paired with symbols that are easy to decipher regardless of your Japanese understanding of written kanji. Those without symbols are often additional, non-essential settings.
How To Use A Japanese Bidet By Kit Zakimi
How To Use Japanese Toilets By Eatyourkimchi Studio
How To Survive In Japanese Toilets By Japanese Journey
How To Use A Japanese Toilet By JapanesePod101.com