Though one hardly likes to mention such things, there are parts ofevery day life in Heian Japan that we modern-day people would have a hard time getting used to. Though the Genji and The Pillow Book rarely mention such activities as eating or cleaning, we do know what Heian-era aristocrats used instead of modern day bathrooms.
Imagine a rectangular area cut out of your floor and filled with sand. This, friends, is a Heian-era “privy box” or toilet. My cat uses something cleaner. That’s right – for all their style, aesthetic taste, and fabulous hair, Heian ladies in waiting used a litter box. It makes one feel a little better about not having the best poetic skills, no?
Next time you rent an apartment or house, ask the landlord if you’ll be permitted to dig a one foot deep privy box in your room and fill it with sand. If he questions further, look extremely embarrassed and mutter something under your breath about needing servants to clean the privy box. He’ll question no further.