The IUSB Vision Weblog

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Toilet Tolerance: Asian and Western Styles

Posted by iusbvision on September 12, 2007

“Oh the bathroom! I wish it was the exact same as the Asian style!” screams one student from Japan.  A student from Taiwan adds, “It is a kind of embarrassing to use American bathrooms” and another student from Thailand says, “American bathrooms have no privacy!”  Some Asian students on campus complain about distinct differences between Western and Asian style restrooms. 

Visualize the restrooms at IUSB. When someone is in a bright red stall at Wiekamp, you can see the person’s legs, which means the door has a space to show somebody is in it. The space would be helpful for security reasons, etc; however, the door is one of the reasons Asian students feel uncomfortable. 

Most Asian bathrooms have full cover doors, which means that you cannot see inside and need to knock on the door to make sure nobody is in it. You may think that it is not good for security but there are emergency call buttons in most restrooms and stalls. If you are in a stall and a person knocks your door, you simply say, “Somebody is in here!”

Asian bathrooms promise a very nice private room with a music box, called Oto Hime. A Japanese bathroom company, To To Toilet, exploit noise problems and relaxation in the stalls. Some people are embarrassed when they make bathroom noises; therefore, they flush twice—before and after—using bathroom. The company produces the music boxes, which make the sound of running water, classical music, etc so when those sensitive people, when using the bathroom just push a button to reduce the noise. 

Moreover, some music boxes have emergency call buttons just in case something happens in the stall. These music boxes are popular in all kinds of public restrooms, even schools in some Asian countries, especially Japan. The music boxes decrease wasting water and promise users relaxation and a safe environment while in the restroom.  

In addition, one reason for the full cover doors are differences between Western and Asian style toilet seats. Western toilets are like chairs; however, some Asian toilets are not like the chair style. Users stride over a toilet and squat, so they need to hide themselves with the full cover doors. To keep those traditional Asian toilets clean, there is a sweeper in each public restroom, so in some Asian countries people tip the sweepers one to two cents after using.

However, if IUSB wants to adapt for those minority opinions—it may be difficult to exchange all doors for Asian students but they may be able to adopt the music box idea since people in the stall can feel more relaxed and safe— IUSB needs to budget about two hundreds dollars for each music box.  So if IUSB were to add this idea for the library, it would need at least fifteen music boxes. (Hopefully they could find some discounts for educational industries.)    

The most important thing is that bathrooms should be clean and safe. Some bathrooms at IUSB, especially some restrooms in Northside, may not be perfectly safe since not many people are around. If restrooms have enough toilet paper, soap, paper towels, sanitary maintenances, and security, the bathroom should be perfect. Flush away any cultural differences if you find the perfect restroom for you.   

Naoko Fujimoto

8 Responses to “Toilet Tolerance: Asian and Western Styles”

  1. KC said

    Great article! I think some of these differences aren’t between Asian and Western toilets, though, as much as they are between Asian and North American toilets. For example, most washrooms in Europe and the UK have the “full cover doors” you write about. Also, a good number of them have “sweepers” whom people tip. The best restroom I’ve ever been in is in the Main Building at the University of Notre Dame, which was once judged the best public restroom in the United States. But the second best was in Alexanderplatz in Berlin where the “sweeper” personally instructed me on how to use the complicated motion-sensing sink. It did cost .50 Euro though.
    I can’t help but add that if only the US had Asian stalls, Larry Craig might still be in office!

  2. I think the culture shock can go both ways. In Thailand, it was initially surprising to have female facilities staff at work in men’s restrooms any time in the day.

  3. KC said

    I just wanted to point out that female staff in male restrooms is commonplace in Europe as well.

  4. archangel7681 said

    I knew when I was reading this article about the full length stalls, someone would bring up Larry Craig.

  5. mvigil said

    Nice one on Craig!

  6. KC said

    There’s no better forum for some bathroom humor than a column about bathrooms!

  7. Chuck Norton said

    I was at Sam’s Club last week on Grape Road. I had to go to the bathroom and the stalls were pretty narrow. Those of you who know me know that I am 6’4″ and weigh about 280. I looked down and noticed that my foot had crossed over the partition in the next stall. I am so glad that I wasn’t arrested.

  8. KC said

    I take it you weren’t tapping the foot of a police officer soliciting for sex. Or were you?

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