National

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

by Shusuke Murai

STAFF WRITER

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.