Japanese Toilet Makers Agree to Simplify Control Buttons for Confused Foreigners

By Hudson Hongo on at

On Tuesday, the Japan Restroom Industry Association announced that it had developed a new set of control panel illustrations for multifunctional “super toilets,” standardising the symbols for the benefit of foreign visitors.

“Until now, manufacturers have adopted pictograms that seem to be optimal,” wrote the association in a press release, “but when foreign tourists use public toilets such as at hotels and sightseeing facilities, it is difficult to understand the operation buttons.”


Photo: Japan Restroom Industry Association

Under the new guidelines, future Japanese bidet toilets will use eight symbols corresponding to eight basic operations: “lid opening/closing,” “seat opening/closing,” “flushing (large),” “flushing (small),” “anus cleaning,” “vulva cleaning,” “drying” and “stop.”

According to a 2014 survey, “I did not know how to use a Japanese-style toilet” and “I did not understand the role of various operation buttons” were the top complaints by tourists about Japanese toilets, both representing over 25 per cent of responses. Alarmingly, “I pressed the emergency button” was similarly common, expressed by 8.8 per cent of foreigners.

The association says the new pictograms will help accomplish its stated mission of “communicating the clean toilet culture to people all over the world” and hopefully create “a toilet environment that anyone can use with peace of mind.” [The Verge]