Japan revamps confusing symbols in toilets so tourists know how to flush

Japan revamps confusing symbols in toilets so tourists know how to flush
Japan's toilet chiefs say they have come up with a plan to stop tourists getting their knickers in a twist over the country's mind-bogglingly high-tech loos.
PHOTO: AFP

Not all symbols are universally understood.

Visitors in Japan are often baffled by the icons on control panels of Japanese toilets.

Commonly fitted with a bidet system which washes and dries (some might even sing to) your nether regions, Japanese restrooms are reputed to uphold quality hygiene standards.

But all its revolutionary efforts seem lost in translation when visitors fail to understand how to operate the bidet. According to Japan Today, a survey in 2014 found that 25 per cent of 600 foreign respondents simply didn't know how to use it.

In preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association has decided to standardise the symbols on all new toilets sold from April 2017.

Representatives from the association unveiled a panel of new icons this week. They symbolize (pictured below, from left to right) raise the lid', 'raise the seat', 'full flush', 'half flush', 'rear spray', 'bidet', 'dry', and 'stop'.

Photo: Internet

The government has also suggested switching up the symbol for onsens and modifying the Buddhist manji symbol on tourist maps. It currently resembles the Nazi swastika.

Japan has constantly sought to introduce quirky additions to improve users' toilet experience. Among them are smartphone wipes in restroom stalls at Tokyo Narita International Airport.

One warehouse arcade in Saitama even installed special effects that would light up a urinal with choruses of "Hallelujah" when the job is done.

Japan is not the first country to revamp their toilets for tourism purposes.

In Dec 2016, China announced its plans to 'revolutionise' its toilets as part of ongoing efforts to develop tourism. It's a move that was welcomed by many, as China's restroom spaces have a soiled reputation for its highly unsanitary conditions.

According to Reuters, the Chinese government said it aims to build or renovate as many as 100,000 public toilets between 2016 and 2020.

debwong@sph.com.sg

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