“It’s like the whole country is Disneyland, and we’re living at Six Flags.”

Japan regularly sees a surge in inbound foreign travelers in spring, with many hoping to time their trip to coincide with the blooming of the country’s famed cherry blossoms. Unfortunately, a sudden cold snap kept the flowers from opening until later than predicted, so those who came to Japan in late March missed their chance to enjoy the sakura scenery.

But on his trip to Japan last week, American comedian and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel still got to see one of the most beautiful things in Japan: the nation’s pristinely clean bathrooms.

“I took my family to Japan this week, and I have to say, I’m still not sure how I feel about what happened over there,” the comic said in his opening monologue for an episode of nightly TV show, Jimmy Kimmel Live. “We were in Japan for seven days. Not only did I not encounter a single dirty bathroom, the bathrooms in Tokyo and Kyoto are cleaner than our operating rooms here.”

▼ Kimmel talks about his trip to Japan at the start of this video.

As a wealthy celebrity, it’s safe to assume that Kimmel stayed in some pretty fancy accommodations during his trip, but what blew him away was how clean bathrooms are across a wide swatch of facilities in Japan. “Everywhere you go the bathrooms are clean. They don’t smell bad…And not just in the hotel. Restaurants, bars, truck stops. I went to two truck stops. I swear to God, the bathrooms: cleaner than Jennifer Garner’s teeth,” he gushed, comparing the unblemished porcelain of Japan’s bathroom fixtures to the Hollywood starlet’s pearly whites. “After traveling to Japan I realize that this place, this U.S.A. we’re always chanting about, it is a filthy and disgusting country,” he declares.

Now, it’s worth noting that there are, in fact, dirty bathrooms in Japan too. Venture too far down into the dingy spectrum of shack-like ramen joints and dive izakaya pubs, often cramped places with only the bare minimum number of people running the place, and yes, you can find toilets that have been left uncleaned for far too long, marked by a historical record of improper, often inebriated aim for bodily functions of various ejection points. Similar scenes can sometimes be found at train stations located near bar districts around the last train of the night.

Kimmel also mentions traveling to other parts of the world where the bathroom situation is only “dirt holes where plumbing is supposed to be,” while singing the praises of Japan’s bidet function-equipped washlets, which he describes as “toilets that wash you from the inside out.” Not every toilet in Japan is a washlet, however, and in older facilities, especially in the countryside, an old-fashioned washiki, or squat-style, toilet might be your only option, though these are at least ceramic and connected by pipes to the sewer system.

▼ Rather than washing off your backside, squat toilets come with the risk that “you are gonna fall down on shit,” as this rural restroom’s directions cautioned us.

That said, squat toilets are becoming less and less common in Japan. On the cleanliness side, while Japan’s dirtiest toilets are indeed shockingly filthy, you’ve got, on average a much better chance of finding a clean toilet in Japan than the U.S. Particularly at any chain shop or restaurant, even cheap fast food places and mall food courts, a dirty bathroom is the exception, and clean ones are the norm, and the same goes for airports, theme parks, and the vast majority of public restrooms inside any sort of managed building. And yes, that’s also true for Japan’s highway rest stops, what Kimmel seems to be referring to with “truck stops,” are amazingly clean.

It wasn’t just the cleanliness of restrooms in Japan that Kimmel was impressed by, either. “There’s no litter. People carry their own trash,” he says. “There are no garbage cans in Tokyo. 30 years ago, some terrorists put some poisonous gas in some trash cans, they’re like ‘OK, no more trash cans. Everybody clean up after yourselves.’ And guess what? People, they clean up after themselves!”

His timeline is a little off here, While there was a reduction of public trash cans following the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack in 1995, it didn’t result in a complete removal of all receptacles. There was a further reduction as a precaution following the 2004 train bombings in Spain, but even now, you can still occasionally find trash cans in rail facilities. They’re definitely few and far between, though, and Kimmel is entirely correct in that the vast majority of Japanese society doesn’t see a lack of trash cans as an excuse to litter, and instead accepts that any trash a person generates while out and about is theirs to hang onto until they have a suitable place to dispose of it, even if that means carrying it all the way home.

“It’s like the whole country is Disneyland, and we’re living at Six Flags,” Kimmel says, contrasting the world’s premier theme park with its less polished competitor. “I’ve been home 36 hours. I’ve never felt dirtier.”

▼ I’ve got to be honest. Every time I fly from Japan back to L.A. and see the difference in airport bathroom cleanliness between Haneda and LAX, I feel a little disappointed in my home country.

“I can’t imagine what [Japanese people] must think of us. ‘Oh, the garbage people? Yes, the Americans, garbage, yes,’” Kimmel muses. As a comedian, he’s obviously exaggerating for comedic effect here, but just to put everyone’s mind at ease, Japan doesn’t have a widespread image of Americans as “garbage people.” At the same time, Japan is very aware that it’s a country with a high standard of cleanliness, one born out of its emphasis on personal responsibility and showing consideration to others, and in that sense clean bathrooms can, like sakura, very much be considered a symbol of Japanese culture.

Source: YouTube/Jimmy Kimmel Live
Top image: Wikipedia/浪速丹治
Insert images: SoraNews24, Wikipedia/Andre m
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where back in the day he went to more than a few izakaya that had puke troughs in their restrooms.