How to Use a Japanese Washing Machine

By Donald Ash | Articles

Washing your clothes is a pretty important, basic skill, one that you might often take for granted.  Honestly, wouldn’t it suck so bad to have to wear dirty clothes all the time?  Eventually the smells from your clothing’s everyday use would get so bad that you’d offend everyone around you.  You’d be ousted from social events: no friends, no family, no girlfriends, no boyfriends.  You’d end up becoming a hermit living in a far-off, dark cavern somewhere.  I’m pretty sure most people don’t want that.  So I think having clean clothes is essential.  But what if you can’t make heads or tails of the washing machine you’re trying to use?

Being in Japan it’s more than highly likely that your washing machine will be written in kanji and hiragana.    Using appliances in Japan doesn’t require you to read one lick of kanji.  Think about similarities first.  How is this machine similar to my machine back home?  It may not be surprising, but the washing machines are really all that different from country to country.  Use those similarities to your advantage and you’ll get by just fine.  Just remember there are foreigners who do it everyday, ones who don’t know any more Japanese than you do.

However, if you’re really concerned about it, not to worry, I decided to make a short video to show you exactly what to do.  My washing machine is just one of maybe thousands of models, but if you know the basic concepts, you’ll be able to get the job done.

Happy washing!

Donald Ash


About the Author

Donald Ash is an Atlanta, Georgia-born, American expat who has been living in a Japanese time warp for the last eleven years. While in that time warp, he discovered that he absolutely loves writing, blogging, and sharing. Donald is the creator of blog. Wanna know more about this guy? Check out his "What's Your Story" page.

  • Tammy Lynn says:

    Ok… I’m not seeing your video on here… and I am desperately trying to find a FAST washing cycle or a high heat dryer setting. it takes almost 5 hours for one load of laundry. I need my work clothes to be done and dry quickly for work. Is that even possible with a Japanese washing machine??? LOL

  • Donald Ash says:

    Sorry about the video, Tammy. It’s coming soon. I’m doing some site overhauls and have to upload a few things. I don’t know about all Japanese washing machines, but there is a speedy-wash feature on some of them. My machine has the speedy wash feature, but doesn’t have the dryer built in. So, lots of old-fashioned clothes-hanging for me, LOL. When I post the video, I’ll be sure to include a part about that feature for you. Thank you for your input.

    • Donald Ash says:

      Sorry this took a bit longer than expected, Tammy. But that Speedy setting can help to wash faster in a pinch. Or, using the reservation may help you to schedule your washings in order to save time. I’ve never used the washer-dryer combos here in Japan. I hope the video helps. Good luck!!

  • Tammy Lynn says:

    Thanks so much for posting. Actually I think you have a much better machine than I do because I dnt think I even have settings for different water levels! I’m going to check it out today though. I tried to look up the kanji on mine but have no idea how! I’ve got a bit more research to do. Lol. Thanks for trying!

  • […] load of laundry. Japanese washing machines require a few more steps. Thanks goodness for Google and The Japan Guy! (His video felt like I was watching Blue’s Clues) For the machine in my apartment, […]

    • Donald Ash says:

      Blues Clues? LOL! That’s great! I was hoping it would be easy to understand. I am really happy you found it useful.

      • Camille says:

        Ah! I kept forgetting to comment back and thank you, but… seriously, thanks SO much! I’ve come to love my little laundry machine, haha. 🙂

  • Michelle B says:

    THANK YOU SO MUCH! This video was a life-saver! Well…at least my clothes don’t smell anymore 😉

    • Donald Ash says:

      That’s good to hear, Michelle. Nothing sucks worse than smelly clothes. I’ve been there 🙂

  • melvn says:

    i enjoy watching ur tutorials especially this washing machine guide of yours… helps alot! now i can stop wondering what to push next time.. could u do a tutorial video on how to operate a rice cooker.. the first time i saw it, its like u can play video game with it.. lotz of button and kanji.. tho some are familiar but cant read totally..

  • lisbet says:

    This is awesome and hilarious – but the problem with mine is the bazillions of suboptions mine has- more than yours, and mostly kanji. Like what is 説水?念入り (I’m guessing that means delicate).I also have bigger problems- it doesn’t seem like water is going into mine! Ugh!

  • Emily says:

    Thank you Donald! Your video is brilliant!

  • Kate Teleshkan says:

    thank you very much!!! you helped me!!!! hello from Russia ))

  • Josie Racine says:

    Thanks for the videos! I have 2 questions because I assume that you are in fact a Japanese washing machine expert… When would I need to use the “dry” course? And… My washing machine has a “ナチュラル” course. What do you think that means?

    • Donald Ash says:

      Hey Josie,

      I could have sworn I replied to this, but for some reason my reply doesn’t look like it posted. Sorry about that.
      I think ナチュラル (natural) probably refers to a washing cycle that suits natural fabrics. Maybe?

  • Mika Maddela Terao says:

    Seriously. Thank you for making this video. Made me wonder why the water wasn’t draining, thought I broke the washer, I accidentally put it in soak cycle. Such a helpful video:)

  • SoundOfSun says:

    Thank you so much for these explanations ! It’s best to check first than go for it blindly. Now my clothes smell like heaven, haha ! 😀 I kinda wish I had a dryer for winter time, but for now, it’s all good !

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