A Sneaky Workaround For Using Squat Toilets

by SharonKurheg

The first time I encountered a squat toilet was the early-mid 1990s, when I went to Japan with a friend of mine named Teri. It was a very different experience for a Westerner to visit back then…the internet wasn’t as all-encompassing as it is now, so you had less opportunity to learn the ins and outs as a visitor. There weren’t nearly as many “English subtitles” to help you with street signs, transportation, etc. (I spoke about 100 words of Japanese at the time [including the furniture one would find in a living room…because yeah, you really NEED that as a tourist], Teri could only say “thank-you” in the language, and neither of us could read or write in hiragana, katakana or kanji. Teri and I would sit with a map and compare characters to figure out where we were and where we wanted to go). And there were many less Western-style toilets than there are nowadays.

We were in a public park one day and I had to go. I had little idea of how to use a squat toilet the right way, and although I didn’t make a mess, (thank goodness), it was NOT a comfortable position for me to be in.

Things are better if you go to Japan nowadays. There are MANY more English translations when you’re out and about, at least if you stick to the large and medium-sized cities that cater to tourists. And just about anything you’d ever want to know is at your fingertips, thanks to the internet…including everything you’d ever want to know about using a squat toilet. Case in point:

WikiHow – How to Use a Squat Toilet

Then again, apparently, not all Japanese people are 100% sure of how to use a squat toilet, either. 😉

Of course, you can use those instructions for any country that uses squat toilets on a regular basis – Nepal, Indonesia, Bangladesh, South Korea, India, China, Iran, Taiwan, Singapore, etc. But if you’re in Japan (and perhaps other countries, as well) and just have difficulties with squat toilets because of age, size, bad knees/hips or just plain uncomfortableness, you may be in luck! Lots more places usually have Western-style toilets available.

If the park, school, temple, old building, etc. doesn’t have Western-style toilets, there’s still the possibility of one more option.

The handicapped-accessible toilet.


Let me tell you that I am the last one to ever recommend an able-bodied person use the handicapped stall. I worked as an occupational therapist for almost 25 years and on top of that, my mother-in-law was disabled and I hated that she would have to stand in the ladies’ room with her crutches, in pain, while waiting for some able-bodied person to get out of the handicapped stall that they took because it was bigger and gave them more room.

But desperate times in Asia call for desperate measures.

Handicapped toilets are always Western-style, so no squatting is required. And I suspect if a native saw you come out of the handicapped toilet, they would “get it.” So yeah…if you gotta go and there aren’t any Western-style toilets available but there is a handicapped-accessible stall or room, I’d say go for it.

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SharonKurheg January 9, 2022 - 12:27 am

Agreed. But most people in the West….don’t 😉

SharonKurheg January 9, 2022 - 9:57 am

I don’t know the answer to that one. Sorry. I do know that lots of Japanese men, when confronted with a Western style toilet (which is more and more common nowadays anyway) will sit instead of stand, in the name of cleanliness (harder to miss that way). But I don’t know about the stand vs. squat for urinating, for guys. -Sharon

Katherine Krauss October 23, 2023 - 3:48 pm

Handicapped toilets are handicapped accessible, not handicapped reserved. It’s not like a parking space. Sure, if a handicapped person enters the restroom the decent thing to do is let them go ahead of you, but there’s no reason to not use a handicapped toilet stall for what, two minutes? in the off chance that a handicapped person just might come in. As an occupational therapist for almost 25 years, you of all people should know that someone who isn’t in a wheelchair or on crutches doesn’t mean they aren’t handicapped and/or don’t need the benefit of handrails or higher seat heights.

SharonKurheg October 23, 2023 - 4:00 pm

You’re right, one never knows. But we can both agree that the vast majority of Americans who use the accessible stall don’t need to use it. They just prefer to use it because it’s a larger space.


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