In my teenage years, I was painfully shy about using public toilets. But as the years passed, my confidence (and my apathy) increased. I soon stopped caring so much about my bathroom sounds. Every human has made the same such noises at some point. It is a trait we universally share. Why should I care who hears me urinate?
Until I moved to Japan. I noticed that Japanese women much prefer to continually flush over and over to disguise their embarrassment. Suddenly, any bathroom noise became deeply unforgivable. Because in Japan, regardless of your personal attitude, you should not cause any sound that may embarrass others around you. Hence, the Japanese Sound Princess was born.
How to use a Japanese toilet
Before using a Japanese toilet, familiarize yourself with the key buttons:
- Powerful Deodorizer – Designed to filter out any bad odors.
- ビデ Bidet – A front spray nozzle. Be careful to angle yourself a little and keep any clothing out of the way.
- おしり Spray – A back spray nozzle.
- 水勢 Water Pressure – You can adjust the strength of the water for a more gentle spray.
- 止 Stop – For when you are done.
- 音姫 Sound – The sound is usually represented by a musical note (♫) or speaker (🔊) icon. Often, you can adjust the volume as needed.
What is special about Japanese toilets?
Japan is famous for its advanced toilet technology. Perhaps an odd thing to be famous for, but an impressive feat considering how often we use them.
Japan’s toilet innovations have been illustrated in pop culture all over the world. They have notable mentions in TV shows including The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers and Two and a Half Men. But why are they so special?
There are more hygienic
The most noticeable difference in Japanese toilets is their array of functions. Many Japanese toilets have jet washers for both the ‘front’ and ‘back’. This helps reduce the amount of toilet paper needed and gives you a more effective clean. Also, some toilets have a motion-sensor activated flush and lid-opening automation. This stops the ‘leaving the toilet seat up’ argument and may be worth the cost alone.
There are more comfortable
As most people from the UK can confirm, a midnight toilet visit can be pretty uncomfortable during cold seasons. But Japan has you covered. I cannot express my adoration for heated toilet seats in the winter months. Pure technological luxury.
Perhaps the most curious function is the sound option. In the 1980’s Japanese toilet maker TOTO discovered through market research that women were embarrassed by the noises from the restroom. To solve this problem, they invented the Otohime (音姫). This translates as ‘Sound Princess’ but may also be a reference to Otohime (乙姫), daughter to the god of the sea in Japanese mythology.
What is the Japanese Sound Princess?
The Japanese sound princess is a device that emits a sound to cover any ‘bad’ noises from the stall. It can be activated by pushing a button or waving a hand over a motion sensor. Such sounds or music will vary. My personal favorite is relaxing rainforest soundbite, complete with rushing waterfalls and tropical birds. Lovely. The most common noise is a recording of toilet flush.
And so, does this not defeat the purpose? I feel that playing a loud sound to cover the noise, only draws more attention to the act. Nothing shouts “I’m pooping now!” more than a blaringly-obvious fake flushing noise. But I guess it makes others feel more comfortable. Also, it helps prevent Japanese women wasting water by flushing 2.3 times on each toilet trip.
Where can I buy Japanese Sound Princess?
So, you’ve decided that a sound princess is essential to your lifestyle. Where can you get one? Fortunately, you have a few options available to you:
Buying a Japanese toilet
Often Japanese people will have a sound princess in their own homes. This can be a huge advantage if your home is small, and the bathroom is a little too close to your guests’ space.
Japanese toilets are available to buy in the US and UK. However, there are not cheap! Expect to pay at least $300 for just the seat. But the real cost is the installation. Japanese toilets require an electrical installation by a qualified professional. This can cost $500 minimum.
Portable sound princess
Perhaps you have found yourself in a primitive toilet in Japan with no sound option. Disaster! But luckily you can purchase your own portable sound princess to take with you wherever you go! Keitai (mobile) otohime come in a variety of adorable designs from Sailor Moon to Hello Kitty. I understand why girls would own one of these purely for the cuteness factor.
If buying a Japanese toilet is beyond your budget, you can ask Alexa for help. Simply download for free on Amazon and say the magic words “Alexa, open Sound Princess!”. She will oblige by playing a discreet flushing noise.
I hope this covers everything you have ever wondered about the Japanese Sound Princess. If you would like to learn more about living in Japan, be sure to check our other articles.
Article Author: Beth Lawson