I visited Japan and fell in love with the country's bathrooms

I visited Japan and fell in love with the country's bathrooms
  • Japan has incredible things to offer any tourist, from food to transit.

  • But I fell in love with the country's bathrooms on a two-week trip.

  • From bidets to temperature-controlled bathtubs, I long for a Japanese bathroom back home in the US.

Before arriving in Japan, a warm toilet seat evoked a full-body cringe. The heated plastic was a clear indicator that someone not so long ago had used the toilet.

But a warm seat in Japan is the norm thanks to tech-forward toilets, so by the end of my two-week trip, I happily plopped onto the warm plastic.

But heated seats weren't the only thing I fell in love with. From bidets to heated shower rooms, I learned that Japan has mastered the bathroom situation.

A toilet in Japan.
A toilet in Japan.Monica Humphries/Insider

I left Japan wondering why bidets aren't everywhere

After arriving in Tokyo, one of my first Google searches wasn't the best omakase restaurant or how much tickets cost for the city's public water buses. I was searching for the price of a bidet for my toilet back home.

From ritzy hotels to dive bars, I spotted bidets everywhere. And as someone who grew up in the US where they aren't as common, my trip to Japan was one of the first times I've used one.

I quickly learned that there's a lot more to a Japanese toilet than the bidet shooting out a stream of water. Most of the toilets I used in Japan were manufactured by the company Toto. On one side of the toilet, I would spot a menu of options. I could select the strength of the stream, its temperature, and its angle. There's also a button for a dryer, a button to flush, and, of course, a button for the heated seat.

A toilet's control panel.
A toilet's control panel.Monica Humphries/Insider

Those are the basics. The fancier toilets I spotted had white noise machines, could deodorize the air, were self-cleaning, and had night lights.

The popularity of these toilets goes hand in hand with a society that values hygiene.

Bill Strang, the president of corporate strategy and e-commerce at Toto USA, told NPR that Japanese people prioritize bathing and feeling clean — and their toilets reflect that. Not only did I feel cleaner using a bidet, but the bathrooms themselves were spotless.

A spotless public bathroom in Japan.
A spotless public bathroom in Japan.Monica Humphries/Insider

In the US, I avoid public bathrooms at all costs. Back when I lived in New York, some of the city's subway stations and parks had bathrooms for public use, but it wasn't uncommon to find these spaces in disarray. It's the same in Denver, Colorado, where I currently live.

And it's not just public bathrooms. I've visited plenty of bars and restaurants with trash on the floor, graffiti on the walls, and a gnarly stench.

In Japan, I didn't think twice about stepping into public bathrooms. The subway stations had bathrooms that were often pristine, and rarely did I find a restroom coated in a layer of pee.

Bidets weren't the only thing I left loving about Japanese bathrooms

After speaking to real-estate agents and touring apartments in Tokyo, I learned that many bathrooms in Japanese homes and apartments often include at least two rooms.

The first room has a sink and it's where people typically undress before bathing. The second room has your shower and tub. The toilet is either placed in the first room or in an entirely separate room.

The goal is to create a similar atmosphere to traditional Japanese bathhouses.

During my two-week trip, I visited two homes that had these traditional bathrooms, and in them, I discovered technology that catered to relaxation.

For example, Ryza Rynazal is living in a 285-square-foot Tokyo apartment that costs just $800 a month. Even with the smaller space, the architects prioritized the building's bathrooms.

Rynazal has two separate rooms for bathing. One has a sink and toilet, and the second has a shower and a tub. Outside of the bathing room, Ry has a panel that allows him to control different settings. His favorite, he said, is that he can turn on the heat, which creates a sauna-like atmosphere when he's done showering.

The two rooms for bathing in Ryza's apartment.
The two rooms for bathing in Ryza's apartment.Monica Humphries/Insider

At a home in Kyoto, Japan, I used a tub with futuristic settings. As I navigated the language barrier, I spotted controls that allowed me to set the bathtub's water to an exact temperature. I could time when I wanted the tub to fill up and when I wanted it to empty, and I had full control over the water level.

Back in the US, that's far from the case. I have no sauna to step in after a shower and am constantly toggling between water temps of hot and cold.

So while Japan's ramen was out of this world and its transit system is one of my dreams, I'm still thinking about the country's bathrooms months later.

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