Oct 3, 2017

How to use a fancy washlet in Japan

    Washlets, the fancy electric toilet seats so common in Japan, come in a variety of options and abilities. From the ever basic models which are little more than heated toilet seats (though those alone are nice as the days get colder) to super fancy models that seem to offer everything short of using the toilet for you, the washlet offers comfort to some and confusion to others.
How to use a fancy washlet in Japan photo
A fancier washlet with English option listings. Not only does it sanitize its own sprayer, but it offer variation on pressure and volume of the waterfall noise it plays to cover any embarrassing noises.    

    Most basic models offer the posterior spray, bidet, and stop at very least. Many other slightly upscale models offer nozzle cleaning and perhaps even the water pressure adjustment buttons. 

    Today we demystify a fancy washlet from the upper floor ladies room of a major department store in Sendai. English options are common, especially in more populated areas. Many washlets I have seen in other locations even in the same city offer options in English above the Japanese, but this one was not so. The blue highlights are of my own making and explanation.

How to use a fancy washlet in Japan photo    I've never seen the massage button, the move button, or position buttons before and had only heard of the dry function. On this occassion, I chose to examine the massage function, which I learned creates a pulsating effect in the spray by alternating water pressure. The dry function felt quite awkward for me, like suddenly realizing a seam rip in the seat of your pants only when a winter wind hits you where the sun doesn't shine. A warm drying function may alleviate this feeling, but I'm unlikely to try it again any time soon.

    Always remember the stop button, so no matter what happens, if you aren't comfortable, you can put an end to it quickly without making a mess. Personally, I've never used the bidet function.
How to use a fancy washlet in Japan photo
       The bathroom setup was fancy enough that the sound effect button had its own independent panel. So you can clean the seat, cover your sounds, wash and dry your bathing suit area and use a massaging pulse while you do it, but do you notice something missing? Where's the flush? Where on Earth is the flush?!
How to use a fancy washlet in Japan photo    Answer: On top! The buttons, from left to right, include big flush, small flush, and Eco small flush for the smallest of flushing needs. Some of the fancier washlet wall-panels don't have space for the flush on the face of the unit and utilize this space instead, which can be slightly terrifying if you're stuck unable to flush for lack of easily visible button.

Too timid to try? Don't worry. There is no shame in not wanting to spray your nether region with water. It took me more than a year to warm up to the idea and only decided to give it a try when my guts surprised me with mid-date discomfort. I only wanted to not smell awful for the remainder of the date, as tends to be my constant fear when these things happen. Instead, I found myself made infinitely more comfortable by the sense of cleanliness that came from the washlet experience.

Just remember if you are in an unfamiliar but slightly fancy bathroom and cannot find the flush button, do not forget to check the top of the washlet panel. If that fails? Check for a low-tech handle on the toilet itself.



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


  • Tomuu

    on Oct 4

    Very useful, this. Even after years in Japan I still get an onset of panic from time to time when the "flush" button / lever isn't immediately apparent!!!

  • JTsuzuki

    on Oct 4

    @Tomuu I know what you mean! I ran into one of these at a friend's house and freaked out a bit. Why the top? Who will see it? Who would know to look there?