Japanese toilets, toiletries and personal hygiene explained

Why are shampoos, washing powders, deodorant etc etc from Kaoo and Lion so shit?

I’ve always been convinced that they have some kind of monopolistic practises going on in order to keep selling such shite products, and here is my first piece of evidence- “only on such items as toothpaste, cosmetics, hand soaps and cameras has the government been able to ban the system of resale price maintenance, the practice of requiring the distributors of a manufacturer’s product to sell at certain prices”- 3 out of 4 being stuff that those two crappy companies sell. My suspicions were originally aroused by the fact that there are so many drugstores around that they must be making a huge profit from somewhere, and that they offer such special offers sometimes that the usual profit margins must be huge.

Quote from the Kodansha Encyclopaedia of Japan (1983) pg 11

Why was human waste the main fertilizer in the Edo period?

The increasing population and urbanisation meant that the previous method of burying leaves and grasses as compost was not enough. The lack of horses (as only the upper classes were allowed to ride them) and other animals (as most people did not eat meat) meant that humans were the main alternative source. The fact that city dwellers lived in blocks with shared toilets must have also have made this system easier than in some countries and so have lead to its development.

How does a small child use a Japanese-style squat toilet? Do they have training seats?

No. The mother holds them over it with one arm behind the child’s back and the other behind their knees.

Why does the toilet flush as soon as you stand up?

All Japanese men must wipe their arses sitting down. I’d never realised anyone wiped sitting down till I got here. Maybe I’m the only one who stands??

Why do public toilets tend to have toilet paper but no soap?

I’m guessing it’s to stop homeless using it as bathroom

Why do the Japanese knock on or try the handle of a clearly locked toilet door?

Although sometimes it is polite to knock, this is basically a way of showing you someone is waiting outside (possibly because they are used to people spending so long in the toilet playing with their hair). Shop assistants do a similar thing, sometimes using “Irrashaimase” (welcome) as a way of telling you to get out of their way.

Why is Japanese deodorant to ineffective for Westerners?

The classic explanation is that the Japanese do not sweat or smell as much, and the second might be true in some cases. More importantly, the Japanese equivalents of P&G obviously have some kind of monopolistic hold on the drugstore market because this is one of the few sectors where Japanese companies produce such rubbish products that not even people in other Asian countries will buy them. Shiseido and Shu Uemura are the exceptions, but again you will you not find them getting a lot of shelf space in your neighbourhood drug store.

Why is there no separate shower gel for men available in Japan?

See the two reasons above, but also due to a lack of a macho culture about these kind of things, a lack of room in Japanese bathrooms, and because the wife makes most of these kinds of buying decisions for her husband.

Why are there queues in the station mens toilets in the morning?

Long commutes, lack of time for or embarrassment at using the toilet at work  and/ or constipation caused by the Japanese diet.


  1. kayla said,

    May 21, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    what do japanese do when they dont have another bathroom and need to go and someone is in the other bathrooms??? do they hold it or go outside???

  2. alexcase said,

    May 22, 2008 at 11:52 am

    No personal experience with this, but I’m guessing the same as any other country where there is only one loo- tell people to hurry up, try and hold it, piss at the bottom of the garden (if you have one) as an absolute last resort.

  3. danielle said,

    January 22, 2009 at 10:07 am

    are there any specific customs/rituals with japanese hygiene and grooming?

  4. Anonymous said,

    January 29, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    You must comb your pubes, and shave your legs.
    And your pits.


  5. colleen said,

    November 19, 2009 at 1:42 am

    do Japanese have high hygiene expectation levels

    • Danni said,

      January 17, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      I don’t mean to be racist, but my family had a Japanese exchange student living with us for 3 months and she wasn’t really big on dental hygeine. I don’t think they see brushing their teeth as important.

      • Teacher said,

        January 23, 2011 at 12:50 am

        Having taught a lot of Japanese students both here in Australia and in Japan, I can confidently report that our weastern paranoia that someone might smell anything other than peppermint emitting from our mouths is not shared by our Japanese cousins. My students and friends nihonjin have often informed me that the best time to brush your teeth is before breakfast and bed. The American and Australian supermarket shelves that strain under the weight of our mouthwashes, toothpastes and whitening gels perhaps reflect how easily we westerners can be conned into believing that we need to eradicate any trace of essential animal natures. Sadly, this situation also corresponds with a very high rate of mouth and throat concer. Maybe, our society has something to learn from the Japanese.

  6. Mitchell said,

    October 29, 2011 at 2:29 am

    Do female Japanese women use perfume? If so is it reserved for special occasians or used everyday?

  7. alexcase said,

    November 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Absolutely no idea. My wife doesn’t at all, but she’s hardly typical Japanese in any way at all…

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