The first time I encountered a squat toilet was the early-mid 1990s, when I went to Japan with a friend of mine named Teri. It was a very different experience for a Westerner to visit back then…the internet wasn’t as all-encompassing as it is now, so you had less opportunity to learn the ins and outs as a visitor. There weren’t nearly as many “English subtitles” to help you with street signs, transportation, etc. (I spoke about 100 words of Japanese at the time [including the furniture one would find in a living room, because you NEED that as a tourist], Teri could only say “thank-you” in the language, and neither of us could read or write in hiragana, katakana or kanji. Teri and I would sit with a map and compare characters to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go). And there were many less Western-style toilets than there are nowadays.
We were in a public park and I had to go. I had little idea of how to use a squat toilet the right way, and although I didn’t make a mess, (thank goodness), it was NOT a comfortable position for me to be in.
Things are better if you go to Japan nowadays. There are MANY more English translations when you’re out and about, at least if you stick to the large and medium-sized cities that cater to tourists. And just about anything you’d ever want to know is at your fingertips, thanks to the internet…including everything you’d ever want to know about using a squat toilet. Case in point:
Then again, apparently not all Japanese people are 100% sure of how to use a squat toilet, either. 😉
Of course, you can use those instructions for any country that uses squat toilets on a regular basis. But if you’re in Japan (and perhaps other countries, as well) and just have difficulties with squat toilets because of age, size, bad knees/hips or just plain uncomfortableness, you may be in luck! Lots more places usually have Western-style toilets available.
If the park, school, temple, old building, etc. doesn’t have Western-style toilets, there’s still the possibility of one more option.
The handicapped toilet.
Let me tell you that I am the last one to ever recommend an able-bodied person to use the handicapped stall. I worked as an occupational therapist for almost 25 years and on top of that, my mother-in-law was disabled and I hated that she would have to stand in the ladies’ room with her crutches, in pain, while waiting for some able-bodied person to get out of the handicapped stall that they took because it was bigger and gave them more room.
But desperate times call for desperate measures.
Handicapped toilets are always Western-style. And I suspect if a native saw you come out of the handicapped toilet, they would “get it.” So yeah…if you gotta go and there are no Western-style toilets available but there is a handicapped stall or room, I’d say go for it.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary