Hygiene/Bathing

Western-style restrooms are generally found in larger department stores and many restaurants. In fact, if you’re looking for the latest in high-tech facilities, Japan is the place to go. Most hotels feature Western-style toilets, though some ryokan may not.

If you encounter a Japanese-style toilet, remember that you squat (or aim) facing the raised hood of the unit (it takes some getting used to, but it is quite sanitary). Always carry tissues or toilet paper with you — not every restroom stocks these items. And, we’ve found, paper towels are also scarce in restrooms. It’s helpful to note that a current marketing trend involves printing advertisements on small packages of tissue. These packages are usually handed out around the major subway stations and can come in quite handy.

Blowing your nose in public is considered to be bad manners. Excuse yourself and go into the restroom.

While the number of public baths in Tokyo has declined, the custom is still prevalent. Men and women bathe separately except in outdoor hot springs. You will be guided through the process, however the ritual is generally the same in all situations: first, remove your clothing and (after discretely covering the front of your body with your washcloth), proceed to the bath area; before actually entering the bath, you must first wash yourself. Basins and stools are situated near faucets — fill the basin with water, sit on the stool, soap down completely, then rinse off the soap. Once you’re clean, then you may enter the bath. The water will be very hot (ease in slowly), but after a while, relaxation seeps into your bones and peace enters your soul.