I know what you’re thinking. “Jiggle the handle, water rushes in, it clears the bowl, wash your hands and onto lunch.” But this is actually a new symbol key on how to use those fancy electronic toilets, like you’d find in Japan.
Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association (yes, that’s really a thing) released a new standardized symbol set on the various functions that the toilets offer (big and small flush, rear wash, front wash, lid up and down, warm air, and a “stop” button). Why all the fuss about symbols about the functions a toilet offers? By the way, the phrase “functions a toilet offers” is one I never thought would ever leave my mouth. Anyway, the problem was with tourists.
Toilets in hotels or in public areas near landmarks or other attractions were confusing. Different manufacturers used different symbols of their own style, so no two toilets were alike (that’s another phrase I never thought I’d have to say). A survey in 2014 about traveling to Japan concluded that the top complaint about the toilet was that travelers didn’t know how to use the functions. Almost 9% of people responding to the survey said they accidentally hit the “emergency” button.
See the new symbols here.
The standardization comes just a few years ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games. Tokyo will have an unknown number of additional foreign travelers (on top of their usual number of foreign visitors), and a standardization of easy to understand symbols just makes sense with so many different languages entering the country. That can get messy if, you know, the wrong button gets pressed or something. See The Verge for more.