Next month I'll be traveling to Japan with my wife and two children. Our youngest (1yo) is still in diapers. I read a few guides about traveling in Japan, and saw mention that change tables are sometimes placed only inside female restrooms.

This is true for other parts of the world as well, including where I live (Netherlands). Even our local McDonalds has a changing table in the female restroom. I tend to ignore the gender sign and just walk in there if I need to change my kid's diapers. Most women seem to understand that it's not my fault that the table is in 'their' restroom. This remains true even if my wife is also present at the restaurant.

Now, the question: how can I best approach a similar situation in Japan? Should I ask my wife to do it if she's there? And what if she's not there? Should I ask the staff what to do? I mean, that can be problematic since my Japanese is very limited.

  • 33
    Upon encountering the same issue locally, I just change the diapers where they bother everybody, outside the restroom. If someone complains to me, I ask them to forward their complaint to the chauvinist who decided that only women should change diapers. The women seem to appreciate my attitude, the men hate me!
    – dotancohen
    Apr 19, 2016 at 13:47
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    @dotancohen that sounds tempting. But as a 'gaijin' trying to fit in with his 2 (relatively loud) kids, changing a dirty diaper in the middle of a restaurant seems like a step in the wrong direction.
    – freekvd
    Apr 19, 2016 at 14:31
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    Cannot say anything about Japan since i have not travelled there but i have a couple of points to make. I would definitely not change my childrens diapers in the middle of a restaurant or rather anywhere outside the restrooms. I would rather go to the male restroom(for a male child) regardless of whether they have a changing pad or not. Changing his diapers in a public place is rather utterly dis-respecting for my kid in my opinion.Just because he cannot oppose that (being too young) doesnt mean i would do it anyway.
    – user979189
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:54
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    Also if the changing pad is inside female restroom, it would usually be my wife who would go and change his diapers. I would take him to male restroom(again regardless they have a changing pad or not) if my wife is not travelling with me. I find it truly interesting you being a male can enter female restroom for whatever reason!
    – user979189
    Apr 19, 2016 at 16:58
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    I had to read your question a few times to fully understand it. I think you should emphasize "tables are sometimes placed only inside female restrooms." I make this suggestion because in the USA (New York) I will see a changing table in the male restrooms quite frequently even if there is a unisex restroom with a change table available. I always assumed the female restrooms have one as well and that it is not biased towards men's restrooms.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Apr 19, 2016 at 19:21

1 Answer 1


It is quite rare these days (even inside trains) for the changing tables to be in the women's section, usually they will be somewhere in between the two sections, or inside the separate large restroom with the wheelchair icon (yes, you can use it too).

If you do encounter such a case, though, it's not different than elsewhere. An apology (shitsurei itashimasu) and a bow are usually de rigueur, but as a foreigner you could dispense with them. When leaving, do the same but in the past sense (shitsurei itashimashita).

Try as I may, I cannot find a single Japanese news report of it ever causing a problem (and, in particular, subtantiating any of the stories found on obscure forums such as this one). This Q&A thread on the website of the Yomiuri advises to only do it as a last resort, and even then only after obtaining the staff's permission, which I suppose seems reasonable. You can copy the following on your phone or print it or whatever:


My son (daughter) needs a diaper change; where can I do it?

In virtually any reasonably modern place, you will be accompanied to the multipurpose room (多目的室) you had not noticed.

  • 4
    It's not clear if you're recommending using the women's restroom or not.
    – D_Bester
    Apr 19, 2016 at 15:29
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    @D_Bester I think it's pretty clear that they are recommending asking the staff where to go and following their instruction.
    – Myles
    Apr 19, 2016 at 22:18
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    Confirming that the multipurpose room is usually the place to go. Recently though some newer male bathrooms feature a baby seat in each cubicle with at least on stall having a baby change table. Most of these toilets can be found in department stores and/or shopping complexes. Some shopping centres also have Unisex baby changing rooms. This does depend where you are in the country as you have a higher change of a change room the closer you are to an urban centre. Apr 20, 2016 at 6:14
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    @fkraiem I'm not sure where in Japan you travel, but the "change tables only in women's restrooms" phenomenon most definitely still exists in Japan, to the point that it's become a bit of a running joke between my wife and I... Apr 20, 2016 at 10:40
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    Reading this now, after being in Japan, I feel almost silly for asking. The amount and quality of public restrooms is almost overwhelming, and almost all of them have general purpose rooms. I was concerned over nothing. Thanks again for the great answer!
    – freekvd
    Jul 4, 2016 at 5:18

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