One often hears about the wonders of Japanese toilets. The heated seats. The fancy electric bidet with settings to wash all your parts from different angles and tinkly music to cover up the sound of your actual tinkling. Lids that open and close with the touch of a button. Et cetera.
I’m here to tell you about the wonders of ladies’ rooms in Japan. I had never thought about it before, but I’m fairly certain that most ladies’ rooms I have used in my life were designed by men. Ladies’ rooms in Japan are full of tiny details that take into account what happens when ladies go to the ladies’ room.
1) Ladies have babies.
Have you ever thought about what happens when a lady with a baby strapped to her chest in a carrier needs to pee? I have traveled with my sister and her baby and it takes a certain amount of experience to do your business in this situation. Or what about when you’re by yourself with your baby in a stroller? Do you leave the stroller outside the restroom with the baby in it? Ask a stranger to keep an eye on your baby?
The Japanese have solved it: baby seat in the restroom.
2) Ladies have sons.
Small boys often go into the ladies’ room with their mothers. Sometimes the boys are too small to reach the toilet, so the mother has to somehow manage. I don’t have children but I presume this involves picking up the boy and aiming his bits at the toilet, or having him sit on the toilet and confusing the toilet training process. (Mothers of men, feel free to weigh in here.)
The Japanese offer a solution: little-boy sized urinals in all the ladies’ rooms.
3) Ladies like to put their bags down to use the sink.
If you’re a lady, you’re familiar with the issue of where to put your handbag while you wash your hands, or to get out some make-up or your toothbrush. If the bag is on your shoulder, it sort of swings forward and gets in the way while you try to wash your hands. Often the countertop is all wet from the previous hand-washers, so you don’t want to put your bag there.
I saw two different possible solutions in Japan: a small hook near the sink to hang your bag or a double-countertop so that even if the immediate sink area was all wet, there was another ledge either above or below the sink that stayed dry. No wet handbags.
4) Ladies like to preen.
Part of going to the ladies’ room is fluffing your hair and checking there is no snot hanging out of your nose. Most Japanese ladies’ rooms have a separate mirrored section for grooming – like in ladies’ rooms in department stores pretty much anywhere, except in Japan it was like this in train stations and on mountaintops. You can take your time because nobody is waiting behind you to wash their hands. The mirrors are often full-length so you can check if you look all right in the convertible hiking pants and grubby tee-shirt you’ve been wearing for the last four months. (Ok, that’s just me.)
Of course, a hole in the ground is sufficient and functional. Fear not, the squat toilet is alive and well even in Japan. But if you’re going to go to the trouble of putting in a ladies’ room, why not do it right? Four simple details, millions of happy ladies.