OK so for anyone who's traveled to Japan you know what I'm talking about.

They're devices that are a textbook example of excessive featuritis.

But I want to use something other than the flush knob before leaving Japan. What is a feature that has the following characteristics:

  • Common to most Japanese toilets.

  • Hard to get wrong - won't create a mess or damage the toilet.

  • Simple to comprehend - more likely to involve romaji or kana or simple kanji or pictures.

enter image description here

  • 18
    I'm almost sure I'll regret this, but can you include a picture of how a Japanese toilet looks like? Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 6:59
  • 1
    – user766
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 7:22
  • 3
    added a picture of one with 'featuritis' - let me know if that's what you mean, or if you mean the type like on asahi-net.or.jp/~ad8y-hys/movie.htm
    – Mark Mayo
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 7:50
  • @mark the link isn't broken, but I don't see any non text content on my iPhone.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 12:08
  • @MarkMayo: the one with featuritis, not the one on the asahi-net web page.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Mar 4, 2012 at 8:52

3 Answers 3


Wikivoyage tells you all you need to know -- and I'm going to quote most of it, since I originally wrote the entry!

Don't panic — help is at hand. The first key to solving the puzzle is that the actual flush mechanism is usually not operated by the control panel: instead, there is a standard, familiar, Western-style lever, switch or knob somewhere and it is thus entirely possible to take care of your business without ever using the washlet features. (In rare cases, mostly with very high-end gear, flushing is integrated; if lifting your bottom off the seat doesn't do the trick, look for buttons labeled 大 or 小, meaning a big or small flush respectively, on a wireless control panel on the wall.) The second key to exploration is that there is always a big red button labeled 止 on the panel — pressing this will instantly stop everything. Older models simply have a lever nearby that controls the flow of a sprayer.

Armed with this knowledge you can now begin to dig deeper. Typical controls include the following:

Oshiri (おしり) - "buttocks", for spraying your rear - typically shown in blue with a stylized butt icon; this action can be unnerving, but travellers should not be afraid - by the second or third attempt it will seem normal

Bidet (ビデ) - for spraying your front - typically shown in pink with a female icon

Kansō (乾燥) - "dry", for drying off when finished - typically yellow with a wavy air icon

enter image description here

Other, smaller buttons can be used to adjust the exact pressure, angle, location and pulsation of the jet of water. Sometimes the seat of the toilet is heated, and this can be also regulated. One explanation is that since houses are not usually centrally heated, the toilet business can be made a little more convenient by heating the seat. To be polite and save energy, you should leave the cover down on heated toilet seats.

And if that wasn't enough, Wikipedia tells you way, way more than you need to know.

  • 1
    D'oh! I didn't think googling would help me. It's not perfect for criteria 2, but maybe nothing would fit all three.
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 13:24
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    I don't think you can possibly damage the toilet, no matter what you do to the control panel. And neither will any of those create a mess as long as you're actually sitting on the thing -- just resist the temptation to stand next to it and play with the controls! Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 21:55
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    What's the difference between the two buttock spraying options? One icon seems to suggest the water stream split in two and each cleans one the centre of one buttock, while the other icon suggests an even shower of water droplets showering the entire posterior. Both of which seem a bit odd... \-: Commented Mar 5, 2013 at 8:19
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    The second one is yawaraka, "soft", presumably meaning a dainty, misty spray instead of a firehose blast up your pooper. I can't recall ever seeing that one in real life though, the control panel above is definitely more towards the Space Shuttle end of the spectrum. Commented Mar 6, 2013 at 3:28
  • You did explained the buttons, but not the procedure.
    – Antzi
    Commented Jun 8, 2015 at 9:29
  1. Sit on the toilet
  2. Press the buttons (with great aplomb)
  3. Enjoy a whole new spectrum of toilet-based sensation

It worked for me!


Ignore it. Ignore it all. Treat it as decoration. The all important flush lever is on a separate system. You can usually find it on the side of the cistern.

Some toilets have a lever that you can move in two ways. These are marked with two symbols: 大 and 小. You see how the first symbol (大) looks like a man standing with his arms outstretched, as if to say, “It was this long!” That symbol mean big flush. The other symbol means small flush. That’s all there is to it.

  • 1
    There's also a mnemonic for the symbol too. It's a knife cutting something into two small -er pieces. Commented Feb 25, 2012 at 19:23
  • A fine mnemonic, but I'm already using it to remember the kanji for half (半).
    – Pitarou
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 10:44
  • 1
    @hippietrail In 2018, a "poop knife" confession was posted on Reddit. It became a meme (for those that are curious, it's easy to find by Googling). Being familiar with and reminded of that story, this mnemonic was rather confusing. I needed to read it multiple times to understand why it fit the small flush. (Though your comment predates the meme by almost 6 years.)
    – tjalling
    Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 21:12

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