The Japanese Sound Princess

On January 18, 2015

I have lived in America for over ten years and there is still one thing that bothers me about living here. It’s something that I have to deal with everyday and it’s something that I much prefer to do in Japan, and that is to use a public restroom.

Maybe it’s because of my upbringing but myself and many other women in Japan are embarrassed by the thought of other women hearing us pee. I know it’s silly and of of course everybody pees, but I just don’t want to be heard when I am doing my business!

To cover the sound of bodily functions, many women in Japan will continuously flush the toilet while using them, wasting a large amount of water. Even a special education campaign by the Japanese government did not stop women from constantly flushing the toilet so Japanese toilet maker Toto invented the Sound Princess.


The Sound Princess is a small electronic device that when activated creates a loud flushing sound similar to a toilet being flushed. Some of the newer models even have a timer for how long you think you will need to use it and you can also adjust the volume.

I shared the story of the Japanese Sound Princess with my American coworkers and they were very fascinated by it. They were impressed by Japanese attention to a small but delicate issue. Some of my American friends thought it was silly and their response is just to say “who cares if other’s hear you”, but this is the opposite of Japanese thinking. In everything we do we always have to consider if it will make the other people around us uncomfortable or not.

I guess I am much more “Americanized” now because I no longer flush water excessively when I use public restrooms. However the one thing I’m still not comfortable with is other women talking to me while I’m peeing! To me, this is very bizarre and really crosses my comfort zone. Perhaps in America we need a Sound Princess that displays a do not disturb sign on the outside of the stall door.


Japan born, US educated, language teacher.
  • AJ says:

    Only in Japan would they put cameras in the toilets and not give a crap.

  • Bernie Low says:

    I really like the Otohime as I’m very self-conscious. I think it’s a much better option than flushing excessively. When I’m overseas I get confused when it’s not there anymore haha!

  • Kyaw Montana says:

    In drought-stricken California, many corporations have installed Falcon Waterfree urinals which use no water. They feature an “aiming target” embossed into the porcelain whereupon good accuracy results in no sounds or errant splashing requiring janitorial attention.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      really? I have never heard of Falcon Waterfree urinals..that sounds very good. I hate when I see “splashed” urines on the toilet seat.. 🙁

  • Naiema says:

    This is quite annoying when you need to change your shirt and the sound turns on every time you turn around… But I’ve been trying to adapt to the japanese ways since I arrived for my exchange and try not to make any sound while peeing. Nevertheless, if they want to use some sound coverage, they might as well choose something nicer thant the flushing sound.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      I agree..they should play music or nature sounds but I guess Japanese people feel even more embarrassed with the fact that they are trying to use sound princess to cancel their pee sound..!!

  • Interesting! I had no idea! I knew about some small bottle to cover smell but I didn-t know about Princess sound!

    Thanks a lot

  • Moose_Master says:

    I think this is a pretty useful thing. It is also useless. Very interesting though.

  • Bamboogardenista says:

    That makes sense. Farts and the “depth charge” of a #2 hitting the water seem a much bigger deal than the gentle tinkle of “tinkling.” 🙂

  • Bamboogardenista says:

    Maybe a recording of a bull bellowing, or elephant trumpeting?

  • siobhan l says:

    interesting read. Never really thought about as I just don’t pay attention to others in the bathroom. I sort of block the noises out. The only time I had a problem using a public bathroom was in China where there wasn’t individual stalls at the one at the school I worked out.

    • Yumitolesson says:

      Is it still like that in the restrooms in China? then I can never probably go to their bathrooms..but I stopped caring and don’t flush when I urinate. 🙂

  • WolffBone says:

    I feel the same way but I don’t have to worry about other people hearing me because I would go during rush min. for the restroom so there are always someone talk, washing their hands, drying their hands, and flushing the toil.(Just like the movie theater when a movie ends). But when I am the only one in the restroom I push the button for the hand dryer

  • Rudolf Zampa says:

    living in Vienna, I have never seen that before and I see no reason why to use ist. All of this noises are naturally 🙂 Only robots make no noise while peeing…..

  • Pami Seo says:

    Wouldn’t you feel even more embarrassed having to flush the toilet constantly? If someone is flushing the toilet constantly in a public restroom I would think he or she is a weirdo or perhaps experiencing some diarrhea or digestive problems. I would probably not use the same toilet they did. I would feel suspicious… that weird person did something here. I personally do like the Sound Princess but if I go somewhere it doesn’t have it I would completely avoid flushing the toilet constantly because I would feel embarrassed to do so.

    • Ivan says:

      Rather logical, and the “problem” in itself is absurd, you do not want other people to hear you use the bathroom… It would be better to invest in educating people that other people could not care less about the sounds you make when you wee/piss.

  • kayumochi says:

    Many, many American women feel the same way. In fact, I read a blog post the other day written by a woman who spent years in the American CEO ladies room suite and ever once heard a single fart, splash or poop. According to her, these women would wait until the ladies room was unoccupied to do their business.

  • Mirakuru-Sama says:

    guess what. me too . im a guy, and i don’t like people hearing me pee.

  • Akane says:

    I had no idea about this. I live in Australia, and much like America the idea of letting other people hear you pee isn’t an issue. I don’t know how I came about this fear, but I constantly worry about other people hearing me pee. I feel embarrassed and awkward. It’s gotten so bad sometimes that I just completely avoid going to the toilet altogether. My friends have dubbed it as my ‘phobia’ and often have to encourage me to use the bathroom. I can’t even use the school bathrooms, because I’m so scared. Just…. the idea of letting someone hear me pee sounds so embarrassing. I’d love to have Sound Princess in the public bathrooms of Australia. It’d make me much more comfortable.

  • Bamboogardenista says:

    It seems kind of strange to be “concerned about how other people feel” about the sound of your peeing, when most other people are peeing (or other noisy toilet-stall things) in a public restroom!

  • I am an American, but I share your views on this issue completely. Living in Tokyo, I have the opportunity to visit restrooms that sometimes have bathroom stalls with floor-to-ceiling walls. This is the ultimate public restroom for me.

    I was really surprised to hear that women speak to each other while occupied. I thought this was a uniquely, weird male thing. If Americans could adopt the Japanese culture’s consideration of others, we would all get along a lot better. Nice article.

    • Lynn says:

      I came to this article to write the same thing about floor-to-ceiling walls! I’d never thought about it before living in Japan but felt really weirded out going back to the US with it’s huge gaps under the toilet stall doors.

      I can confirm that some ladies do talk in toilet stalls, but I personally get the giggles if someone tries doing it with me.

      After some time in Japan, as the author pointed out, I slowly realized that the sound princess function was probably more about making others feel more comfortable than about one’s own embarrassment.

      • AJ says:

        Although I’ve never done this, the gaps in the toilet walls make it possible to pass someone TP if needed. Also, if I’m not sure if someone is in the stall, I can peek to see their feet/legs. Sometimes people forget to lock the stalls or don’t answer if you knock.

        As a man, using the urinals in America is a much better experience than using them in Japan. It’s rare to see urinal privacy walls, Japanese men often stand next to me instead of one over and often the restroom entrance is openly visible to the public. Typical American restroom, you walk into the restroom and then turn, you can’t directly see people peeing from the outside. In Japan, people can see you pee in the parks, at the stations, and even in the zoo gift shop. Man was that weird.

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