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I'm a trans woman heading to Japan on holidays soon.

Are there any particular laws surrounding the toilets in Japan for transgender people? I will be presenting female - but I will be visibly transgender sadly.

I don't really feel comfortable heading into the male bathroom - but I'd also not like to go to jail instead, or face a fine.

I tried googling it, but all I come across are news articles about some high court ruling. I'd like to know what the law actually says (if anything).

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5 Answers 5

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Many public toilets in Japan will have, beside the regular gendered male and female toilets, an accessible toilet which is intended for people with disabilities, people with a stoma, people who want to change nappies, people who are with young children, elderly or pregnant people, or anybody else for whom the use of the regular toilets might cause difficulty for any reason. They are called 多目的トイレ "tamokuteki toire, “multipurpose toilet” and sometimes "daredemo toire" "anybody toilet".

Here is a sign for such a toilet. They would normally be located beside or between the gendered toilets, where you would find a "disabled toilet" in the UK. However, unlike disabled toilets in the UK, they are designated for use by "anybody". This is the norm for public toilets in department stores, train stations, even on the bullet train and in larger restaurants.

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The text reads "Multipurpose toilet (Some people need multipurpose toilets)"

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    +1, but unlike disabled parking spots, disabled toilets are also open to anybody. Sep 13, 2023 at 3:42
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    Also, in some restaurants or cafes with just two or three rooms, you often find one is female, one male/female, and if present, the third single sex - they are marked with the usual 🚺, 🚹, and 🚻 icons.
    – Ken Y-N
    Sep 13, 2023 at 5:29
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    It's amazing a country can offer a toilet for public use without requiring users to explain themselves. Well done, Japan!
    – adam.baker
    Sep 14, 2023 at 9:09
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    purely fwiw I don't think i've seen one on a bullet train?? on the shinkansen I've seen, the corridor has (A) simply "a toilet" behind a door, with absolutely no labelling, and (B) there's an open-air (or sort of half-shieled) urinal for men. i've never seen a male / female / daredemo trio on a train.
    – Fattie
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:48
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    I suppose to be persnickety this has nothing to do with the actual question .. what are the laws.
    – Fattie
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:49
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From a legal point of view, the situation is muddy at best. Japan does recognize transgender people and it's possible to legally change your gender, but the bar to doing so is quite high and merely being female presenting is not enough. There is also recent court precedent (July 2023) that transgender women can use women's bathrooms at work.

In practice, though, Japan is very much a "mind your own business" society where people avoid getting involved in the affairs of strangers, so it's exceedingly unlikely that anybody would call the cops on you for merely using a female bathroom.

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    Go in, don't look at people, do your stuff, come out. If you don't bother others, then you give them no reason to bother you.
    – Nelson
    Sep 13, 2023 at 1:05
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    You also very occasionally see older women popping into the male toilets when there is too long a queue in the ladies. Also, note unlike in the USA, toilet doors are gap-free, so no-one's going to accidentally catch a glance at what you're up to.
    – Ken Y-N
    Sep 13, 2023 at 3:48
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    But if somebody did call the cops, they have a 99% conviction rate, yes?
    – user253751
    Sep 13, 2023 at 17:14
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    @user253751 For cases the police choose to prosecute, which they only do if they have an ironclad case. Sep 13, 2023 at 17:36
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    @Arthur No, the pressure works in the other direction, they will not prosecute if they have any doubts. I've personally experienced Japanese police straight up refusing to register a wallet as pickpocketed, insisting it was "lost" instead. Sep 14, 2023 at 12:06
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Are there any particular laws surrounding the toilets in Japan for transgender people?

I'll be first to answer the actual bathroom law question. Firstly, there is no bathroom law in particular, but it falls under the jurisdiction of trespassing law (住居侵入等, article 130).

Here's what it states:

Article 130 of the Criminal Code. A person who, without justifiable cause, enters a person's residence or a residence, building or ship guarded by a person, or fails to leave these places despite being requested to do so, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or with a fine not exceeding 100,000 yen.

Thus if you were to obtain permission from the owner of the building where the toilet resides in, you will be able to use whichever toilet regardless of your presentation.

However, another law comes into play if a third party sees you and reports you to the police, which falls under "Violation of the Anti-Nuisance Ordinance (迷惑防止条例違反), and states:

Nuisance prevention ordinances are ordinances set by each prefecture and other local authorities prohibiting nuisance behaviour towards the public.

In many municipalities, the official name is 'Ordinance on the Prevention of Violent Delinquent Acts, etc. that Cause Extreme Disturbance to the Public' (e.g. Tokyo Metropolitan Government and Osaka Prefectural Government).

Basically, a nuisance act committed in a public place or in a public vehicle is a violation of the nuisance prevention ordinance.

...and transgender individuals have been arrested for it in the past.

Thus, the only legal recommendation is to use the gender neutral toilet (多目的トイレ).

Short list of transgender individuals who have been arrested for toilet use in the past 2 years (by request):

There are a ton more articles, but as explained, they are rarely ever tagged 'transgender' due to public and lawful perception.

Bonus: "Gender neutral toilet removed as it breeds crime"

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    Would you have a cite for transgender people being arrested for merely using a toilet? Nov 13, 2023 at 9:54
  • @lambshaanxy I added 6 incidents from 4 sources, hope that's enough. At least one person gets arrested on a monthly basis since the early 2000s.
    – Yuu
    Nov 14, 2023 at 21:16
  • Also, Japanese news articles get deleted anytime between 1 week and a few years, which makes it pretty impossible to find online sources after a while unless you remember the title.
    – Yuu
    Nov 14, 2023 at 21:24
  • Thanks! Although as I suspected many of these cases aren't that clear cut, the 2nd and 4th are for entering a women's bath (not toilet) and the 5th says "女子トイレに侵入し盗撮しようとした" (entered the toilet to commit voyeurism). Nov 14, 2023 at 21:59
  • Yeah it's hard to be clear cut as it becomes a he-says she-says kind of case. しようとした is used when there is alleged intention to, but no clear evidence.
    – Yuu
    Nov 14, 2023 at 22:14
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I would recommend researching the areas you'll be visiting to see if there are any establishments with gender-neutral restrooms because it really depends on the establishment, but most places in Japan has a gender-neutral restroom.

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    That does not seem to add much to the two existing detailed answers. Can you edit to give more details?
    – mdewey
    Sep 13, 2023 at 13:42
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    Seems like a good answer to me.
    – Fattie
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:49
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    "most places in Japan" [citation needed] Having lived in Japan well over a year, I can safely say that outside of very small businesses with a single toilet for all customers, I have never encountered the concept of "gender-neutral restroom". Even public toilets in parks, etc. are usually gendered. Edit: There are often restrooms for handicapped people, which are not gender-specific, but I wouldn't go as far as to call that a gender-neutral restroom.
    – natiiix
    Sep 15, 2023 at 6:56
  • Thank you for sharing your personal experience. It is valuable to learn about different perspectives and experiences. Yes, there are gender-neutral restrooms in some places in Japan, especially in urban areas like Tokyo. Except for restaurants and entertainment facilities, have restrooms without gender designation. These restrooms are located in public buildings such as government buildings, libraries, and parks in Tokyo. Gender-neutral restrooms in Japan are not yet universal, and there still may be many businesses and public places in the country that do not offer such facilities. Sep 15, 2023 at 9:21
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    I live in a city of ~800,000 and the only "Gender-neutral" toilets I've seen are in convenience stores. Everywhere else has male and female toilets, and sometimes a special toilet for disabled people, usually just a special stall, and that's it. I think you're overstating how many places have gender-neutral toilets by a very wide margin. @natiiix After 8+ years living here, this answer really surprises me. Sep 15, 2023 at 10:38
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The laws surrounding the toilets in Japan for transgender people are not very clear or consistent. There is no national law that explicitly protects the rights of transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, but there are also no laws that explicitly prohibit it. The legal situation depends largely on the local authorities and the individual establishments.

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