The history and etiquette of urinals in Japan is, well, odd if you are me. I come from a place of closing doors, hidden toilets and modesty when it comes to those parts and actions we consider ‘private’. In Japan-not so much.  Take a look at this public urinal, look closely and know that this urinal could be stationed about anywhere in Japan-in Tokyo, in a bus station or by a 8 lane highway as was the one I happened to find myself using in Beppu.

 Hello Mom!

Hello Mom!

You might notice, as I did while using a urinal like this one, that one is standing in plain sight of any passer-by, traffic of all types and even, again as was in my case, could be in full view of a gathering of ladies waiting for a bus! The first I noticed this strange openness, if you will, was in what amounted to be a bar type eatery located in Tokyo’s major shopping district. I wandered with the traffic flow of guys after a few beers sure to come upon the Men’s Room and I did. The odd thing was as I approached I couldn’t help but notice by the angle and placement of the urinals themselves that I could see each man in his own ‘right’. “Well we’re all men” I found myself thinking until I realized I was currently standing in the public hallway just approaching the Men’s room-the same hallway each lady would use to get to their bathroom! Interesting! I’ve simply come to view this, no pun intended, as some sort of easy dating procedure invented by the Japanese Society to help eliminate the disappointment we suffer here in America after sometimes weeks, months or even years into the ‘dating’ process. Still, urinating in the public’s view, as well as in your potential dates’ view, I found to be somewhat unnerving. That’s just me I guess.

 no one can see?

no one can see?

step right up

step right up

told you-its different

told you-its different

But all this public urinating has a history in Japan. Boys will be Boys and Men? Well Men I guess will do just about anything. Case in point is the various street signs in Japan which disallow urinating on city streets. I’m thinking here these signs are not that old historically but they do point to another normalcy of practice in Japanese Culture we Men here in the West just don’t do. I mean here Men do at best find the woods or at least stand behind a tree when’ blessing’ the ground! Not so much in Japan-check these signs out:

or even worse!

or even worse!

go somewhere else

go somewhere else

We mean it!

We mean it!

someones not listening

someones not listening

So there you have it. If you like to urinate in the public’s view Japan offers you that chance. Personally, it’s not high on my list. But somehow it all does ‘fit’ together. Japan is a society where beer sells in vending machines, honor is held in a group sense, pornography is sold on street corners and the boys look but no one cares-even the boys, and where if you dropped a dollar, your purse or your life’s savings it would be returned to you because it was yours. No one wants what you have-they only want what they can earn and earn with honor.

No one ogles others but rather they maintain themselves. The ‘metal dressed’ teenagers walk beside the traditional kimonos, high society and business dressed people. All alike they wait at street lights and never jay-walk. Law is up held from within and what is natural is just that. “Who really cares about all that stuff?” this society seems to ask. “We have a high-tech life and World to lead” is the sounds the street lights make, the fashions sway and the etiquette here spells out. All the bad stuff? Their toilets can flush any of it away.

OH and one last thing. We don’t want to fight another war with these people. Again, oddly, I must offer information about the‘new’ toilets as found in most homes in Japan as evidence of this fact: think of the bowl of our toilets with the tanks in the back. Now add a sunken hole in the center of the tank lid top which drains into the tank itself. Now add a goose necked facet which comes out from the back of the tank and points directly towards the whole in the tanks’ lid top. Flushing the toilet in Japan means water will run out of the goose necked facet so you can wash your hands under it while the same water then drains into the tank and fills it. Saving water? Oh, millions and millions of gallons a day of saved water. Many of these lid tops are decorated with fake leaves or flowers holding a bar of soap-kinda like an oasis on top ;of the toilet. Hasn’t anyone from ‘Standard’ toilets ever visited Japan? What’s up with that?

running water into tank lid

running water into tank lid

see the facet above the lid?

see the faucet above the lid?

See? Lets not fight-they’re too smart. If they could teach us how to build shin-kon-sen trains perhaps we could then gather together and ship  our trash someplace special? Or, if Japan could show us their toilet technology perhaps our lakes would fill back up and we could let them fish here? I do have to think though once they got used to it they would prefer our urinals privacies-but heck, who knows?

Franque