Kyoto turns to toilet etiquette signs in a bid to flush out bad behavior



Japan has rolled out the welcome mat for foreign visitors and this is benefitting businesses nationwide, but there’s a not so rosy catch. For the city of Kyoto, one of the most popular destinations for tourists, the result has been reeking public lavatories.

“We have seen an increasing number of people from overseas misuse our toilets based on their own cultural norms,” said Chikashi Ono, an official at the city of Kyoto who is in charge of hygiene, adding that it is due to intercultural differences.

For example, some visitors who don’t know how to use Japanese squat-style toilets mistakenly squat facing backward over the hood, leaving excrement on the toilet.

In addition, visitors from countries where toilet paper is usually thrown away in a nearby trash can aren’t aware that they are supposed to flush it down the toilet, leading to unpleasant smells.

To prevent such incidents, Kyoto, which was selected by a U.S. travel magazine as the world’s best city in July, put up signs at the end of June to show visitors how to use public lavatories in Japan.

The signs, which give explanations in Japanese, English, Korean and Chinese, include instructions on how to use squat toilets and how to activate toilet flush sensors.

“We hope these stickers help people understand . . . the proper way to use bathrooms,” Ono said.

Thanks to the signs, unpleasant incidents have significantly decreased, he said.

According to government data, a record 11.05 million foreign visitors came to Japan between January and July, up 46.9 percent from the same period last year.

Among them, Chinese comprised the biggest group, numbering 2.76 million, followed by 2.16 million visitors from South Korea and 2.15 million from Taiwan.

  • Old Man, Torbay.

    A person would have to be absolutely thick if they could not figure out how to use a squat toilet.

    • Foreigner Friendly

      That’s a bit harsh, Old Man. If you’ve grown up only using pedestal toilets, they could be quite confusing. In countries with only pedestal toilets, foreigners sometimes squat on them as they’ve grown up with squat toilets. Your poor parents probably spent months teaching you how to use the toilet; foreigners here aren’t stupid, they just lack that training.

  • Starviking

    Given the state I have seen toilets in rural Tohoku, it’s not just foreign guests who need to be told how to use them…

    • Michele Marcolin

      lol Agree!

  • JohnLee

    Taiwan surpassed Korea Tourist visitors to Japan. It should be china, taiwan, Korea. Japan is not Korean tourist hot spot. Japan is boring and expensive place for average or rich Koreans. Koreans who overstay or work in Japan are Korean prostitutes. Which is hard to label them they represent average Korean tourist in Japan.

  • At Times Mistaken

    Aside from the risk of falling in, wouldn’t squatting be the healthier choice?

  • rupertmja

    When travelling, public toilets are the No1 indicator of a prospering economy/culture. Asia used to be terrible but is now amazing. The UK, OMG, the UK, OMG. OMG. We are doomed.

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      By that standard, so is the U.S. and Canada.

  • Gab

    Japanese toilets are the world’s most confortable and clean ever. — a Chinese tourist.

  • Macarons & Sakura Tea

    Better ready those loo signs. The season is slowly looming on the horizon and, although I’m enchanted with Gifu more, Kyoto is the best place in Japan to witness the vibrant, vivid colours of the fall.