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Washiki : Japanese Squat-type Toilet

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/08 Traditional Culture , ,

It was the summer of 2006 when I and my classmates at AOTS Training Center went on a study tour as a part of our Japanese training.  We went to Miyajima Island and stayed at one of their traditional Japanese hotels. We were having some fun that night, eating Japanese foods and drinking sake (Japanese wine).

My First Washiki Encounter

In the middle of our merry-making activities, I suddenly felt the urge to go to the toire (toilet). My stomach was aching and I couldn’t hold it any longer. So I excused myself from my friends and rushed to the toire.  As I reached the toire, I was shocked to find out that there was no toilet bowl. Something’s not right about this toilet.  The thing that really bothers me most is what the urinal is doing on the toilet floor. Who in their right mind would place a urinal on the floor? Isn’t it supposed to be attached on the toilet wall? Then I remembered that there are some places in Japan who are still using the traditional Japanese-style toilet, the washiki (Japanese squat-type toilet).  So the thing that I previously thought of as a misplaced urinal was actually the toilet bowl that I was looking for.  Since it was the first time that I have come across a washiki and I really felt my stomach bursting from the inside, I quickly dropped my pants and do what I have come to do, not knowing that there’s a proper way of using it.  After doing my business, I was so curious about the washiki and so I researched about it.

Floor urinal? No, it's not. This is what a washiki (和式) looks like.

Floor urinal? No, it’s not. This is what a washiki looks like.

(Image by: Matt Perreault)

Before the influx of western style toilet bowls in Japan, most, if not all, Japanese toilets are equipped with washiki.  Widespread use of western style toilet bowl only began after World War II because of the influence of the American occupation.  Most of the younger Japanese generation might have not experienced having washiki in their homes. The main difference between the two toilet types is that, in a western style toilet bowl you are seated while in a washiki you are in a squat position.  That may be the reason why some people say that using the washiki is much better for our health since it is just like doing the squat exercise.  Being in a squat position for a longer period of time is straining to the legs.  Unlike the western type toilet where you can do other things while being seated, such as playing with your iPad or reading the newspaper, using the washiki is more time saving since it would be difficult to do things other than pooping.  Some also say that using the washiki is more hygienic since your butt cheek doesn’t come in contact with the toilet bowl, unlike the western style toilet bowl.

How to properly use the washiki

  1. Facing the protruded part of the washiki, place your feet on the opposite sides of the washiki.
  2. Drop your pants.  Just make sure that you keep your pants out of harm’s way.
  3. Assume the squat position.
  4. Do it!
  5. Don’t forget to flush after doing your business.


The proper way of using the Japanese squat-type toilet.

The proper way of using the Japanese squat-type toilet.

(Image by: Yuya Tamai)

The topmost illustration of the image above shows the proper way of using the washiki.

Sad to say that the first time I used the washiki, I was doing it wrong.  I was like the one on the lower left of the picture above.

But I’m still happy that I didn’t do it like the one on the lower right of the image.  It is not only gross, it also looks funny.

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