Japanese-style squat toilets: A surprising way to stay healthy

Despite being famous for producing the heated, buttock-massaging, water-spraying robotic toilets of the future, Japan is also home to a surprising number of old-school “washiki” (Japanese-style) squat toilets. Especially outside of the city, these toilets can still be found in many homes, public buildings and schools, despite the vast majority of the younger generation positively recoiling whenever they open a stall door to find one of these things waiting to humbly accept their waste.

According to Internet chatter, though, there may actually be more benefits to using Japanese-style toilets than simply good posture, with “hygienic”, “time-saving” and “strengthening” just some of the words being used to describe these classic ceramics.

A common complaint about Japanese-style toilets is that, unlike Western models where you’re seated the entire time, it’s necessary for the user to squat over them, putting most of their weight on their thighs and calves. This position is, in fact, generally agreed to be much better for our health and makes splash-down far easier since – and you might want to put down the fork if you’re reading this during your lunch break – the anoretical angle is much better when in a squatting position and the rectum (although naturally curved of course) is “straighter”, allowing the browns to slip by unobstructed. Some experts, such as the late UK doctor, Denis Burkitt, even believe that defecating in a squatting position helps to prevent colorectal cancer.

Even so, for those not accustomed to this Gollum-esque squatting position while answering the call of nature, it can be nothing short of agony and equivalent to having done a couple of hundred squats or sprinting up a flight of stairs. But surely that could be a good thing?

According to Japan’s own Wikipedia entry on the subject, Japanese squat toilets also promote stronger leg muscles and — although it may sadden those who enjoy nothing more than perching on the throne with their iPhone for half an hour at a time — save time, ultimately making us more productive. On top of this they’re also much more hygienic:

“Japanese toilets can be used without actually having to come into physical contact with them. Since you’re not forced to sit on something that was last used by a complete stranger, you also don’t have to endure their remaining [butt cheek] warmth, and come away feeling much cleaner.”

Wise words! With its tradition of drawing a clear line between the inside and out, exhibited even today by the custom of removing shoes when entering a home or even a doctor’s or dental clinic, cleanliness has always been something considered very important in Japan. Until fairly recently, toilets were almost always kept separate from bathing areas, with the two considered to be at completely opposite ends of the spectrum of sanitation, so it perhaps makes sense that traditional squat-style toilets should promote as quick and sanitary use as possible.

“They’re also very easy to clean,” chimes in another Internet user pointing to the further benefits of squat toilets. Certainly, when compared to the enormous bidet-equipped devices that many homes and fancy office buildings now have, washiki toilets are a breeze to keep in a sanitary condition, requiring little more than some bleach and the occasional scrub. No need to worry about getting into those nooks and crannies between the seat and the toilet itself or cleaning chemicals damaging the plastic or electrical elements inside; the job can be done in a matter of seconds.

Although few Westerners, or young Japanese for that matter, would rush back to gleefully inform their party that the izakaya pub in which they’re drinking has a “washiki” toilet, there is clearly plenty of support for the old-school models, and many in Japan are increasingly turning away from costly, high-tech gadgets in favor of a simpler lifestyle. There are even some people out there who have never quite made the leap to a sit-down model, proudly stating that “Unless it’s a ‘washiki,’ I simply can’t do a number two.” Proof positive that even with all the technology in the world at our fingertips, sometimes you just can’t beat doing things the way nature intended.

So the next time you open a stall door and find one of these peculiar horizontal urinals looking up at you, keep an open mind; not only will you be in and out a heck of a lot faster, you’ll probably have a much easier time of it. Provided, of course, that you get the angle right and keep your pants well out of harm’s way. Oh, and for those of you who are still unsure how to approach these porcelain poopers, remember: always face upstream and have the flush lever in front of you, regardless of whether it’s a number one or two you’re visiting with. At least that way if you lose your balance you’ll have something to grab on to.

Source: NAVER Matome

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  • 3

    Yardley

    Years ago, I worked in a very modern office building in Japan. The men's public toilet had Western style toilets and the women's had washiki. I could never understand why men got to sit down but women had to squat. Needless to say, many of us ladies used the men's toilet whenever the coast was clear! They did make special accommodation for me when I injured my leg in an accident and couldn't bend it for several weeks.

    My first apartment had a washiki toilet - what a shock! The school I was to be teaching at had found the apartment for me before I arrived in Japan. They thought it was a great find: close to school and low rent. They did think the toilet might be a problem for me, so they went to the hardware store and bought a plastic Western style toilet form (just the form, no working parts or water) to fit over the washiki so I could sit down. That thing was worse than the washiki on its own. Because it was just a form - no water flow inside - each time it was used, it had to be washed down, and cleaned daily. What a pain! And because the form was rather high, when sitting on it, some of my shorter friends were left with their feet dangling in the air. That thing was a hoot!

    On a more serious note, the washiki toilet is almost impossible for many disabled people to use. That's the biggest reason why I think they're not suitable for public places. That, and they're not usually kept very clean - you may not have to sit on a warm seat recently used by a stranger, but you often have to stand in other stuff left by them. It's difficult to keep trousers/skirts/dresses out of harm's way.

  • 3

    philly1

    you also do not have to endure their remaining [butt cheek] warmth

    No, Western-style [only in Japan] you only have to endure the ever-baking toilet seat heater on an already warm day. Try that when you're in the middle of a hot flash and see how you like it. Adding that much heat to the seat must only encourage any bacteria to "be fruitful and multiply."

    Since most of the body touching the seat is skin of the thighs and glutes, the ick-factor of sitting on a toilet is a purely emotional reaction. Studies show higher counts of bacteria are found under the average person's fingernails than on toilet seats.

    Most people don't even consider the ick-factor in touching door knobs, keyboards for cashless transactions or turning on a light switch or picking up the same high-end handbag in a department store or grocery items a stranger has recently touched and put back.

    Either toilet when clean is fine. Either toilet when dirty is gross. Though it's trickier for women whose wardrobe choices often make using the J-style option more of a hassle.

  • 2

    kitzrow

    The first time I used a Japanese style toilet, I faced the wrong way and my wallet managed to leave my back pocket and PLOP. Oh, I was so naive at the time. I agree with this article that it can be healthier to use this style of toilet and I am very happy I have played catcher when I was playing baseball as I had little trouble once I faced the right direction! I am happily using a western style toilet at my home with a bidet attachment. Always wondered why people in the U.S. do not use a bidet as I have never seen one on my travels home.

  • 2

    Ranger_Miffy2

    They are stinky and really messy. No thanks.

  • 2

    Maria

    They're only stinky and messy if they aren't kept clean, just like toilet seats.

    I agree that squat loos are healthier and more hygienic - when faced with the choice in the public loos, choosing the washiki is a no-brainer, since your buttocks don't come into contact with anything.

    And how often do you strain when in the squat position, compared with seated?

  • 2

    Serrano

    "hygienic"

    Ha ha ha ha ha, I had to laugh out loud at that one. A crap-splattered Japanese "toilet" is hygienic? Ho ho ho!

    Whilst Japanese bathtubs are WAY better than those shallow American bathtubs, Japanese "toilets" are one of the worst Japanese inventions. I only use them in the case of dire emergency, when the alternative is... well, I won't go into details there, ha ha

    From the movie Mr. Baseball:

    Jack Elliot: I don't believe this. What's next, somebody going to tell me how to take a crap? ( walks into locker room Japanese "toilet" stall ) Hey Max.

    Max "Hammer" Dubois: Yeah, what?

    Jack Elliiot: I need somebody to tell me how to take a crap.

  • 2

    kimuzukashiiiii

    On a more serious note, the washiki toilet is almost impossible for many disabled people to use. That's the biggest reason why I think they're not suitable for public places. That, and they're not usually kept very clean - you may not have to sit on a warm seat recently used by a stranger, but you often have to stand in other stuff left by them. It's difficult to keep trousers/skirts/dresses out of harm's way.

    Also I heard that for the elderly in Japan they are very difficult to use - arthritis and such.

    Having been pregnant in this country, and having to (attempt) to use one while 8-9 months gone, I can tell you it is very difficult. To the point of being almost dangerous.

  • 2

    Himajin

    People with artificial hips and knees have trouble with them too.

  • 2

    bass4funk

    They can keep it. Tried it once, never again! Just got my new Inax Auto washer toilet, the best thing that was ever hygienically invented.

  • 1

    Surf O'Holic

    No thanks.

  • 1

    Rick Brant

    This article is the most stupidious thing I ever read. Next thing they say that indoor plumbing is bad because you don't have to carry water in from the outside that would give you exercise and strong muscles. I wish Asian countries would wake up and join the 21st century when it comes to their bathroom fixtures

  • 1

    Serrano

    "Japanese-style squat toilets: A surprising way to stay healthy"

    Um, no.

  • 1

    AustPaul

    I can see an understand the health benefits,but if you have a dodgy right knee like me they are a bit of a challenge...

    On the other hand they are often dirty/smelly,maybe some people's aim needs to be 'rezeroed'!

  • 0

    itsmeagain

    Used to be the standard feature in India too; at home, in schools, railway cars, public buildings, etc., but like in Japan the new generation feel it's pre-historic. Let's hope there will be a comeback.

  • 0

    Cos

    I have no problem. I grew mostly at my grand-parents that had no toilets... or later had one but reserved it for Sundays. And the French washiki in cheap shared-johns flats (for students) are terribly dirty and unconvenient. Washiki sounds so modern. I believe the health aspect. Now some people with... difficulties, are prescribed to use a platform for feet, so they can squat above their Western toilet.

    I could never understand why men got to sit down but women had to squat.

    Women are more prone to constipation and more likely to wear clothes (like kimonos) that make high seats not ideal. So in many places, on the lady's side, they propose the 2 options.

    On a more serious note, the washiki toilet is almost impossible for many disabled people to use.

    Idem for the standard seats.

  • 0

    Meguroman

    How are these "Japanese"? Has anyone here traveled at all? Been to Asia or the Middle East? Ever been camping? What's so special? Been there, done that in many countries, campsites. Tiring, often incredibly stinky and rather unpleasant over all. Funny story: friend was a JET in inaka, old house. The local board of education put an "adaptor" seat on his washiki. One day he's in there doing his biz, studying a kanji book, as you do (pre smart phone era). when a rather large & long earthquake hits. Unfortunately, in their haste to make the gaijin comfortable they neglected to secure the seat to the floor....he tumbled in big mess. I could not stop laughing when he called me to relate the incident.

  • 0

    Ah So

    I hated them. Long ago when I first came to Japan, it was winter and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to take a crap without hitting my pants.
    So there I was everytime taking off my pants to go...in freezing weather... I had to take off my long underwear too. What an uncomfortable experience.

  • 0

    ka_chan

    Don't see how it's healthy. You may be doing a squats but that is not really good for you knees. The picture shows a modern Japanese toilet. The older ones were like that but with no bottom since it was a cesspool. They used to clean it out for free since the contents were used as fertilizer for growing rice. Picture that toilet with no bottom and then small kids. Toilet training must have been a trill.

  • 0

    irishosaru

    If the squat is healthier, couldn't the position be achieved by simply leaning forward on a 'western' toilet?

  • 0

    bass4funk

    "Japanese-style squat toilets: A surprising way to stay healthy"

    Um, no.

    I second that! Hell, naw! I work out enough, when I have a bad tequila night, I don't want to squat, grew up in a modern country with a modern toilet, i want to relax when I use the John, maybe read my phone. I'll stick with that....or hold it, if I have to!

  • 0

    gogogo

    They stink like nothing else because there is no water in them, they must be impossible to clean because public toliets with these stink like nothing else.

  • 0

    25psot

    Going back to primitive human behavior is healthy. Humans should go back to nature, gather berries, roots and herbs so our planet become again clean and beautiful place.

  • -1

    humanrights

    25psot Its been done in JP for a century, look what happened

  • -1

    dracpoo2

    Is this a joke?

  • -3

    humanrights

    Most disgusting! Good way to slash your shoes and socks with brownies. Anyway, blends in well with the use of wooden sticks to eat food with.

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