Posted by: Tommy | November 2, 2011

The Long-Awaited Toilet Post

A few months ago, in Malaysia, we polled the readers about potential compilation posts of pictures from various countries that are strange or funny – Weird Advertisements, Toilets and Things that are the wrong size.  In an upset, the readers voted for Weird Advertisements by 1 vote over Toilets.  And secretly, I was glad.  Not because I didn’t want to write about toilets – I did!  But I was hoping to save the Toilets post for Japan because the fancy electronic Japanese toilets are the stuff of legend.

Fast forward a few months and we’ve arrived in Japan.  And on the first day, I knew what the fuss was all about.  I’ve seen the holy grail of toilet lore and now feel like this post can truly be written.

This is the toilet that started it all. This is the back of the toilet at Godzillas Hostel in Moscow. I now know that this setup is incredibly common around the world, but at the time I'd never seen the separate flushing options for lots of water/ little water.


After Russia, there wasn't much to be inspired by in the toilet realm. In Israel, Egypt and Southern Africa, many of the toilets are functional but not particularly artistic.

Lacking artistry, with a few exceptions. Here, I caught Anna coming out of the outdoor bathroom at the Bridge Backpackers in Botswana. See how happy she looks? It's the outdoor-ness of this toilet that's (probably) making her smile.

Another outdoor job in Botswana, this time at our campsite in the Kalahari. I hadn't thought about it before just now, but we went 2 full weeks in Botswana without using an indoor toilet.

I probably should have closed the lid before taking this picture. Sorry about that. I loved the "green" design of this toilet, found in Capetown, South Africa. You wash your hands in the sink attached to the back of the tank, which fills up the tank and saves water. Why don't we have these in America?

From South Africa, we moved on to India, where most of the toilets aren't fit to be photographed. You might be wondering with this picture has to do with toilets...

...but those cubbyholes on the side of the street, just open for all the world to see, are actually open bathrooms..for all the world to see. 2 interesting things about these: 1) We frequently saw men walk up, look at the conveniently located street toilet, then unzip his pants and start peeing on a building 3 feet away. 2) 95% of the time, the people we saw using these were men peeing. The other 5%... well, that's just India.

Most toilets in India/Nepal are of the squatter variety. But in hotels and some restaurants, you'll find a Western toilet. Or in our hotel in Neshik, India you can find the rare combo squatter/Western.

As a side note, I tried to visit the Sulabh International Museum of Toilets in Delhi but ran out of time.  You can find their website here.

After 2 months in India and Nepal, I thought this sign, in the Singapore airport, was a very good sign for the toilets we would encounter in Asia. And I was right.

In Vietnam, we encountered this towable bathroom trailer. It seems much easier to transport than Port-O-Johns and it must smell better (though I didn't venture inside).

This isn't an actual toilet, but it is a picture of the umbrella that we carried for 6 months (and are still carrying). We got it in Thailand and honestly had no idea that it had a picture on it until after we'd bought it. If you're curious, the words are "Hoo Hoo Comfortable tummy."

We saw this (or some version of this) sign on lots of trains in Asia. Don't squat on the Western tioilet, don't spray your feet, don't ...bathe your child? Despite the sign, I did walk in on one guy using the bidet hose to give himself a shower on an overnight trainride in Thailand.

Australia is like America in almost every way, so there wasn't much to be amazed by. Until Sally (Anna's mom) found this sign in a women's bathroom and contributed it.

In New Zealand, we visited Hobbiton and found Hobbit-sized bathrooms.

In Fiji, on Caqalai Island, this was everyone's favorite bathroom. 25 feet from the beach, and what a view when you exit.

Among the most recognizable relics of the SS President Coolidge, the sunken ship we dove in Vanuatu, were the row of toilets. The ship sits on its side, so these toilets jut out from the wall in 120 feet of water.

Our next stop was China. And with a return to Asia came a return to interesting toilets. At our private room in Yanshuo, we got to look at this comical grunting pig every day. Don't hurt yourself, big guy.

It's not China without some hilariously mistranslated English. I honestly don't know what they are trying to prohibit with this one.

At a mall in Beijing, we encountered this tiny toilet. It's enclosed in its own brightly-colored stall with cartoons all over it, plus the friendly bear at the bottom. And it comes about halfway up my shin. Just an odd sight. Though the Chinese guy who walked in and saw me photographing the tiny toilet might have thought that was an even odder sight.

And then there's the Japanese toilet. The pinnacle of toilet design, as far as I'm concerned. Not only does it have the water-saving sink feature, but it has a heated seat (it doesn't sound as great as it is), a button that plays music to cover "embarassing noises" and a control panel.

The control panel, close-up. From left to right - Stop, Backside wash, Bidet - and then a bunch of buttons in Japanese that control temperature, aim and strength of flow.

The Japanese even make a better squatter toilet than the rest of the world.

When I saw this, I knew that the post could be completed. Toilet nirvana had been achieved. On trains in Japan, you don't need to touch the seat. Hold your hand over the sensor and the seat goes up. Unlock the door, the seat goes down. No need to touch it, no leaving the seat up for the next person. Can a society achieve more?



  1. This is a masterpiece. If WordPress does not Freshly Press this post, I will be outraged.

  2. I think you could take Andy Runney’s place! xoxoxo,Kita

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