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Photo taken in the bathroom of Watt Mann, a thrift store in Sagamihara, Japan:

(Source: the Facebook group Engrish in Japan)

We here at Language Log thought we knew all about Japanese toilets:

In this case, methinks we need the Japanese instructions to understand how to use this one.

[h.t. Victor Steinbok]


  1. Victor Mair said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 2:56 pm

    "2001: A Space Odyssey" Zero Gravity Toilet Instructions

  2. Vicki said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 4:00 pm

    The spacing on that sign, and the lower-case m in "mission," suggest that it said "Advanced Emission" and someone deleted the E with white-out.

    That still leaves questions, of course.

  3. Victor Mair said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 5:28 pm


    That makes it even funnier (never laughed so hard in my life). I never thought of that.

  4. Chas Belov said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 6:23 pm

    Thinking about it, how do they do accessible squat toilets?

  5. Victor Mair said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 7:00 pm

    @Chas Belov

    One of our recent PhDs is a specialist on exactly such matters. I will ask him.

  6. PeterL said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 7:15 pm

    One of the more common signs I've seen in Japan (albeit at the stand-up urinals):
    Google Translate almost gets it right: "Let's go one step further and use the toilet cleanly."

    Some more pictures here:

  7. Victor Mair said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 7:19 pm

    I've used squat toilets all over Asia.

    Here's a charming, classic docu-video about how to use a squat latrine in South India, by the inimitable Wilbur Sargunaraj:

    "How to use Eastern Latrine"

  8. Duncan said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 7:27 pm

    @ Chas Belov:

    (Apparently) Their accessible toilets are our "normal" toilets.

    (Unfortunately my only Asian experience is youtube/TV, but as a 70's "missionary kid" in Kenya I can absolutely identify with the problem and the video below!)

    Youtube: Idiot's Guide to Japanese Squat Toilets (It's in the outtakes at the end.)

    (Channel: Rachel and Jun: Rachel is a former USAF translator who went to Japan to study the language. Jun, then a young man in college, had a job as one of the hosts. A primary channel focus is "The idiot's guide to Japan".)

  9. Mark Bookman said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 9:12 pm

    @ Chas Belov,

    Thanks for your question! Victor Mair pinged me for an answer.

    In short, there are no 'accessible' squat toilets in Japan. Many squat toilets were installed before Japan instituted barrier-free regulations and laws that mandated accessibility like the Heart Building Law (1994), the Barrier Free Transportation Law (2000), and the New Barrier-Free Law (2006). Today, the vast majority of public facilities are required to have 'universally-designed' toilets that conform to standards laid out by local and national governments.

    You may still find squat toilets in private facilities, but such facilities are often exempt from accessibility guidelines and have little economic incentive to build inclusively. That's starting to change on account of Japan's rapidly ageing population and decades of activism from the nation's disabled communities, but we're still talking about a long time before everything becomes accessible.

    Even then, 'perfect' accessibility is a myth. If a toilet is built at a low height, someone who uses a tall wheelchair might not be able to use it. And if a toilet is built at a higher height, then a smaller wheelchair user might have issues. We can only build so many toilets at different heights because of spacial and financial limitations, so it really matters who is at the table making decisions. We need to find a way to get more folks at the table to maximize inclusivity.

  10. Jon said,

    June 19, 2021 @ 11:50 pm

    Reminds me of a sign in a British pub toilet:
    We aim to please
    You aim too please

  11. George said,

    June 20, 2021 @ 12:19 pm

    My favourite urinal sign was in eSwatini (Swaziland at the time). If I remember it correctly it read: Please stand closer. It isn't as big as you like to think it is.

  12. Dara Connolly said,

    June 20, 2021 @ 4:44 pm

    I've seen a shorter version of the sign PeterL refers to:
    もう一歩前 (one more step forward)
    in the workplace toilets of an R&D facility.

    While the literal meaning is obvious (please step closer to the urinal to avoid urinating on the floor), I was unsure whether it is also intended to carry a metaphorical meaning (along the lines of "let's make progress").

    In fact, to be accurate I assumed the metaphorical meaning first before realising that the more prosaic meaning was intended.

  13. Josh R. said,

    June 20, 2021 @ 7:33 pm

    I once saw this sign, or a variation of it, posted above a urinal.

    It's a haiku (technically a senryu, a humorous 5-7-5 poem) that reads


    Te wo soete
    Shibuki chirasu na
    Matsutake no tsuyu

    Guiding with the hand
    Do not splash and scatter
    The dew of your matsutake

  14. Victor Mair said,

    June 21, 2021 @ 6:29 am


  15. Pamela said,

    June 26, 2021 @ 8:30 am

    the strange thing is, i understand exactly what this sign is aying. i can't imagine this being said on an English or American sign, no matter the grammar or choice of words, so maybe there was no template to copy. but then i haven't been in a men's toilet lately. women's toilet instructions are always kind of discreet and indirect. if you don't already know what they are saying, you might not get it. using English words, but completely devoid of actually English language, this sign communicates.

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