In Japan, Always Know Where Your Towel Is

I was in Japan last week for the Tokyo Game Show, among other things. There are a kajillion sites with direct coverage of TGS better than what I could offer so I’ll hold off on commentary in that area for now until it all sinks in a bit better. In the meantime, I’m going to make a couple of posts this week about Japan. I’ve been going there for about a decade now and it’s still a pretty fun place to visit even when the days are consumed by business topics.

Today’s lesson: you should always know where your towel is when in Japan. While The Guide says the towel should be big, like a bath or beach towel, in Japan you can get away with something much smaller like a wash cloth. Of course, most people don’t actually carry towels, they carry handkerchiefs. Typically these handkerchiefs serve much the same purpose as a small towel, used for drying hands, wiping sweat off your face and wetting to clean yourself up with. Very versatile!

Why is such an accessory which seems relegated to old men with runny noses or fashion statements in the US essential in Japan? Well, many restrooms still don’t have any means to dry your hands. Of course most even moderately trafficked areas will have paper tower dispensers or some kind of air dry system, but many older public restrooms and restrooms in smaller establishments are traditional and without something to dry your hands. Many restaurants will have paper napkins or provide a wet hand towel to clean your hands before eating and you can continue to use it during the meal, but there’s no shortage of restaurants which at best have only tissues as “napkins” or maybe nothing at all. Again, a small hand wash cloth or handkerchief will come to your rescue.

That’s just a couple of cases where a towel could be handy. Next time you find yourself in Japan without a handkerchief, be sure to bring along a small towel from your hotel room when heading out exploring and your day will go by with one less thing to worry about.