Last week’s post was about Iwate (いわて/ 岩手), so this week I need to start with て (te). This game of shiritori is so much more fun when you join in with your comments and suggestions, and this week I had an interesting suggestion for a て topic from ラマタ. She suggested I write about…
Tearai (てあらい/ 手洗い)
てあらい (tearai), as I expect some of you will know, is the Japanese word for “toilet”. Actually, the most common word for “toilet” in Japan is simply トイレ (toire), but it is less polite to use this word. (お)てあらい actually translates as “a place to wash your hands” (much like the American word “washroom”). If you’ve never been to Japan, you might think it’s rather odd to write a whole blog post about Japanese toilets, but if you have a quick Google you’ll soon realise I’m not the first! There’s even a Wiki page dedicated to Toilets in Japan.
So, what’s so special about Japanese toilets? In my experience, there are two main kinds of toilets in Japan, and they are polar opposites. On the one hand, there are ultra-modern, hi-tech toilets with more functions than you can shake a stick at:
And on the other hand there are squat toilets:
Let’s start with squat toilets. I was terrified of these when I first saw them, and just couldn’t see how on earth I was supposed to use one without, well, making a mess. Despite helpful illustrations showing you how to use them, squat toilets can seem quite alien to anyone who doesn’t have these in their home country.
Fortunately, you won’t find squat toilets all the time in Japan. Often, when using public toilets, you will notice that one cubicle has a sign on it which says 洋式 (yoshiki) / Western-style, so you might want to wait to use that one.
Let’s turn to the slightly more pleasant topic of ultra-modern, high-tech toilets. These have so many functions, and can seem quite confusing, but the basic functions are just the same as ordinary Western-style toilets. One thing to remember is that you don’t have to press any of the buttons on the side – unless you want to experiment. Sometimes you will find instructions like this:
The most surprising things I found when I used these kinds of toilets were that they sometimes open up on their own, and they also flush on their own (usually). The other functions, as you can see above, include music to muffle embarrassing sounds, bidet functions and deodorizer functions. One of the best things about these high-tech toilets, especially in the winter, is that they often have heated toilet seats. It was quite a surprise when I first discovered that!
The last thing worth mentioning about toilets in Japan is the etiquette. As with many things in Japan, there is a certain way to do them and, even as a tourist, you should respect these ways. Quite often in Japan, especially in hotels and people’s homes, you will see toilet slippers (トイレスリッパ).
In Japan, there is a big emphasis on keeping dirt out of the house, and that is one of the reasons why Japanese people take off their shoes when entering the house. In the same way, toilets are seen as dirty places, so shoes are changed when entering the toilet in order to keep the dirt confined to one area. Be careful though – make sure you remember to change back out of the toilet slippers after leaving the toilet, and never wear them in other rooms of the house!
Toilets in Japan are something that have been blogged about a great deal, to the point where people actually get worried about encountering a squat toilet because they have the idea that all toilets in Japan are like that or that they’re impossible to use (they’re actually fine to use once you get the hang of them), or they expect all toilets to be robot-like whizzy machines that talk to you. Take it from me, the fascination soon wears off. Toilets in Japan are more varied than those in the UK, but they soon become just a place to do your business.
Of course, this post has been written from a female point of view. I have no idea what the situation is like for guys. Gentlemen – any comments?
Tearai (てあらい) ends with い (i), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “i”. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below! And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん! (^_^)v