Toilets in Japan

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A cleansing jet of water designed to wash the anus of the user of this bidet-style toilet
Control elements of a modern Japanese toilet

There are two styles of toilets commonly found in Japan.[1][2] The oldest type is a simple squat toilet, which is still common in public conveniences. After World War II, modern Western-type flush toilets and urinals became common. The current state of the art for Western-style toilets is the bidet toilet, which, as of 2004, are installed in more than half of Japanese households.[3][4][5] In Japan, these bidets are commonly called Washlets (ウォシュレット Woshuretto?), a brand name of Toto Ltd., and include many advanced features rarely seen outside of Asia. Depending on the exact model, these bidets are designed to open the lid when they sense a user nearby, wash the anus or vulva of the user, dry afterwards with warm air, flush automatically and close the lid after use.


[edit] History

Nara period wooden toilet paper called chu-gi. The modern rolls in the background are for size comparison

During the Jōmon period, settlements were built in a horseshoe shape, with a central plaza in the middle and garbage heaps around the settlement. In these garbage heaps, calcified fecal remains of humans or dogs, so called coprolites, were found,[6] indicating that these garbage dumps were also used as toilets. The earliest sewer systems are from the Yayoi period (300 BC to A.D. 250).[7][8] These systems were used in larger settlements, probably in combination with toilets. A possible ritual site, that may also have been a toilet using flowing water, dating back to the early 3rd century was found in Sakurai, Nara.[6] Another cesspit analyzed by archaeologists in detail was found at the site of the Fujiwara Palace in Kashihara, Nara, the first location of the imperial city from 694 to 710.[6] This toilet was constructed over an open pit similar to an outhouse. During the Nara period (710 to 784), a drainage system was created in the capital in Nara, consisting of 10–15 cm wide streams where the user could squat over with one foot on each side of the stream. Wooden sticks called chu-gi were used as a sort of toilet paper.[6][9] In earlier days seaweed was used for cleaning,[10] but by the Edo period, these had been replaced by toilet paper made of washi (traditional Japanese paper).[11][12] In the mountainous regions, wooden scrapers[9] and large leaves were used too. Often, toilets were constructed over a running stream; one of the first known flushing toilets was found at Akita castle, dating back to the 8th century, with the toilet constructed over a diverted stream.[6] However, historically, pit toilets were more common, as they were easier to build and allowed the reuse of the feces as fertilizer[13]—very important in a country where Buddhism and its associated vegetarianism acted to reduce dependence on livestock for food, though seafood has always been an important part of the Japanese diet. In fact, the waste products of rich people were sold at higher prices because their diet was better.[10] Various historic documents dating from the 9th century describe laws regarding the construction of fresh and waste water channels, and detail the disposal procedures for toilet waste.[6]

Prisoners shall be directed to clean up sewage at the Palace and government offices as well as toilets of the east and west on the morning after a rainy night
(Collected Interpretations of the Administrative Laws Ryo-no-shuge)

Selling human waste products as fertilizers became much less common after World War II, both for sanitary reasons and because of the proliferation of chemical fertilizers, and less than 1% is used for night soil fertilization.[14][15] Because of this, Japan had historically a much higher standard of hygiene than, for example, Europe, and the orderly disposal of human waste was common, while in Europe, sewage was simply dumped on the streets throughout much of the continent's early modern history. In fact, the first westerner to visit Edo was supposedly shocked since he had never seen such a clean city.[15]

Meiji Era squat toilet of a wealthy Japanese near Nakatsugawa.

In Okinawa, the toilet was often attached to the pig pen, and the pigs were fed with the human waste product. This practice was banned as unhygienic after World War II by the American authorities.[16]

During the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568 to 1600), the "Taiko Sewerage" was built around Osaka Castle, and it still exists and functions today.[7] The use of modern sewage systems began in 1884, with the installation of the first brick and ceramic sewer in Kanda, Tokyo.[7] More plumbing and sewage systems were installed after the Great Kantō earthquake to avoid diseases after future earthquakes. However, the construction of sewers increased only after World War II to cope with the waste products of the growing population centers. By the year 2000, 60% of the population was connected to a sewer system.[17] The national Sewage Day is September 10.[18][19]

Western-style toilets and urinals started to appear in Japan at the beginning of the 20th century, but only after World War II did their use become more widespread, due to the influence of the American occupation.[3] In 1977, the sale of Western-style toilets exceeded the sale of traditional squat toilets in Japan. Based on toilets with a built-in bidet from Switzerland and the U.S., the world's largest sanitary equipment company, TOTO, introduced the Washlet in 1980.[3] Japanese companies currently produce some of the most advanced, high-tech toilets in the world.[20]

[edit] Terminology

The word toire (トイレ ?) is an abbreviated form of the English language word "toilet"[21] and is used both for the toilet itself and for the room where it is located. Similarly to the word anime, toire is often mistakenly identified as a French language loan word due to its French-sounding ending.[citation needed]

A common euphemism is otearai (お手洗い ?, lit. hand-washing). Strictly speaking, otearai refers to the sink and is actually a loan translation of the word "lavatory".[22] This is similar to the usage in American English of "bathroom", which literally refers to a room with a bathtub, and "toilet", which literally refers to the act of cleaning oneself. It is also common to see another loan translation, keshōshitsu (化粧室 ?, lit. powder room), on signs in department stores and supermarkets, as well as accompanying the public toilet pictogram.

The plain word for toilet is benjo (便所 ?, place of convenience or place of excrement), from the word ben (便 ?) meaning "convenience" or "excrement", and this word is fairly common.[22] It is often used in elementary schools, public swimming baths, and other such public places, and is not especially impolite, although some may prefer to use a more refined word. In many children's games, a child who is tagged "out" is sent to a special place, such as the middle of a circle, called the "benjo." Japanese has many other words for places reserved for excretory functions, including kawaya (厠) and habakari (憚り), but most are rare or archaic.

The toilet itself—that is, the bowl or in-floor receptacle, the water tank, et cetera—is called benki (便器). The toilet seat is benza (便座).[23] A potty, either for small children or for the elderly or infirm, is called omaru (sometimes written 御虎子).

The Japan Toilet Association celebrates an unofficial Toilet Day on November 10, because in Japan the numbers 11/10 (for the month and the day) can be read as ii-to(ire), which also means "Good Toilet".[24]

[edit] Types of toilets

[edit] Squat toilet

A contemporary Japanese squat toilet including toilet slippers. The handwritten sign to the left of the vertical pipe says, "Please squat a bit closer."

The traditional Japanese-style (和式, washiki) toilet is a squat toilet—also known as the Asian toilet[25] as squat toilets of somewhat similar design are common all over Asia. A squat toilet differs from a western toilet in both construction and method of employment. A squat toilet essentially looks like a miniature urinal rotated 90 degrees and set into the floor. Most squat toilets in Japan are made of porcelain, though in some cases (like on trains), stainless steel is also used. Instead of sitting, the user squats over the toilet, facing the hemispherical hood, i.e., the wall in the back of the toilet in the picture seen on the right.[25] A shallow trough collects the waste, instead of a large water-filled bowl as in a western toilet. All other fixtures, such as the water tank, piping, and flushing mechanism, may be identical to those of a western toilet. Flushing causes water to push the waste matter from the trough into a collecting reservoir which is then emptied and carried off into the sewer system. The flush is often operated in the same manner as a western toilet, though some have handles to pull or foot pedals instead. Many Japanese toilets have two kinds of flush: "small" (小) and "large" (大). The difference is in the amount of water used. The former is for urine (in Japanese, literally "small excretion") and the latter for feces (literally, "large excretion"). The lever is often pushed to the "small" setting to provide a continuous covering noise for privacy, as discussed below.

Two variations are common: one where the toilet is level with the ground, and the other where the toilet is raised on a platform approximately 30 cm (1 ft) high.[26] The latter is easier to use for men to urinate while standing, but both types can be used for this purpose. There is also no difference for defecation or squatting urination. The user stands over the squat toilet facing the hood and pulls down (up in the case of skirts) their trousers and underwear to the knees. The user then squats over the hole, as close to the front as possible, as excrement tends to fall onto the rear edge of the in-floor receptacle if the user squats too far back; for this reason many public squat toilets have signs reminding the user to "Please take one step closer." During defecation it is important to keep balanced.[2]

Beginners and foreigners often hold onto the piping at the front, which therefore has earned the nickname "grunt bar," from the sounds made while holding onto this pipe.[27] If the plumbing is hidden or not strong enough, a separate handle may be installed specially to aid the user in keeping his balance, both when using the toilet and when standing afterwards. Another common strategy employed by foreigners to avoid any potentially embarrassing accidents while defecating is to strip completely from the waist down and hang the garments on a hook before assuming the position.

One advantage of squat toilets is that they are very easy to clean. They are also cheaper to make, they consume less water per flush than western toilets, and, due to the lack of direct contact with the seat, some people claim that they are more hygienic. However, seat contact is not a real health risk[28][29] and squat toilets allow splatter on one's own legs and feet. The waterless trough minimizes the risk of splash-back of water during defecation. However, because the products of excretion sit exposed to the open air until flushed away, they commonly produce much stronger odors than they would sitting under water in a western toilet, an effect that is often quite noticeable in or anywhere near a Japanese restroom.

In addition, a number of medical benefits are attributed to the squat toilet.[30] It has been suggested that the squatting strengthens the pelvic muscles of females, reducing the likelihood of incontinence.[31] Furthermore, it is said that this toilet builds up strength in the hips, and improves breathing and concentration. The upright squatting position also allows wastes to be eliminated more quickly and completely, reducing fecal transit time. Slow fecal transit is a major risk factor for colon cancer. [32] Other studies find that squatting prevents and cures hemorrhoids.[33] Assuming and maintaining the squatting position on a regular basis may also help maintain the flexibility of the knees.[34]

The Japanese sanitary equipment company, TOTO, produces a Japanese squat toilet with a built-in bidet, with a nozzle to clean the anus. The popularity of this product is unknown.

A combination of squat- and western style toilet also exists, where a seat can be flipped down over a squat toilet, and the toilet can be used essentially the same way as the western style.[35] This hybrid seems to be common only in rural areas for the benefit of a resident foreigner. Adaptors that sit on top of the Japanese toilet to convert it to a functional sit-down toilet are much more common. There are also permanently installed extensions available to convert a squat toilet into a western style washlet. Inversely, there also exists a conversion platform available, that allows someone who prefers a squat toilet to raise himself up to the level of a western toilet.[36]

A spigot on top of the tank of this western style flush toilet allows users to conserve water by washing their hands in water destined for the next flush.

[edit] Western-style

The standard flush toilet used worldwide is known in Japan as a Western-style (洋式 yōshiki?) toilet. Western-style toilets, including high tech toilets, are now more common in Japanese homes than the traditional squat toilets,[2] though some older apartments retain stickers on the toilet or in its room illustrating the proper way to use it for urination and defecation. While most public facilities such as schools, temples, and train stations are often equipped with only squat toilets,[2] in their own homes, Japanese people prefer being able to sit, especially older or physically disabled individuals for whom prolonged squatting is physically demanding or uncomfortable.

Western-style flush toilets in Japan commonly include water saving features such as the ability to choose between a "big" flush and a "little" flush. Many toilets also route the water to fill the tank through a faucet over the tank allowing users to rinse their hands.

[edit] Japanese bidets

A high-end wireless toilet control panel with 38 buttons

The modern toilet in Japan, in English sometimes called Super Toilet, and commonly known in Japanese as Washlet (ウォシュレット Woshuretto?) or as warm-water cleaning toilet seat (温水洗浄便座 onsui senjō benza?) is one of the most advanced type of toilet worldwide, showing a dazzling array of features.[4] The TOTO product Washlet Zoe is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world's most sophisticated toilet with seven functions. However, as the model was introduced in 1997, it is now likely to be inferior to the latest model by Toto Neorest.[20] The idea for the washlet came from abroad, and the first toilet seat with integrated bidet was produced outside of Japan in 1964. The age of the high-tech toilet in Japan started in 1980[5] with the introduction of the Washlet G Series by TOTO, and since then the product name washlet has been used to refer to all types of Japanese high-tech toilets. As of 2002, almost half of all private homes in Japan have such a toilet, exceeding the number of households with a personal computer.[3][4] While the toilet looks like a Western-style toilet at first glance, there are a number of additional features, such as blow dryer, seat heating, massage options, water jet adjustments, automatic lid opening, flushing after use, wireless control panels, heating and air conditioning for the room, et cetera, included either as part of the toilet or in the seat.[2] These features can be accessed by a control panel that is either attached to one side of the seat or on a wall nearby, often transmitting the commands wirelessly to the toilet seat.[2]

[edit] Basic features

The most basic feature is the integrated bidet, a nozzle the size of a pencil that comes out from underneath the toilet seat and squirts water. It has two settings: one for washing anus and one for the bidet.[1][3] The former is called posterior wash, general use, or family cleaning, and the latter is known as feminine cleaning, feminine wash or simply bidet. At no point does the nozzle actually touch the body of the user. The nozzle is also self-cleaning and cleans itself before and after operation. The user can select to wash the anus or vulva by pressing the corresponding button on the control panel. Usually the same nozzle is used for both operations, but at a different position of the nozzle head, and using different openings in the nozzle to squirt water at a different angle to aim for the correct spot. Occasionally, two nozzles are used, each dedicated for one area. The control logic is also attached to a pressure switch in the toilet seat, and operates only if there is pressure on the seat, indicating that the seat is occupied. The very first models did not include this automatic switch-off. A number of curious users pressed the button while watching the toilet to see its mode of operation, and promptly received a jet of warm water in their face.[19]

[edit] Customization

Most high-tech toilets also provide the option to select the water pressure to adjust to the preferences of the user. By default, the vulva receives less pressure than the anus. Usually, the temperature of the water can also be adjusted. Researchers in Japan have found that a water temperature slightly higher than the body temperature is preferred by most customers, and 38 °C is considered best. The exact nozzle position can also often be adjusted forward or aft manually. High-end washlets also provide options for a vibrating and pulsating jet of water. The manufacturers claim that this helps with constipation or hemorrhoids.[10] The most advanced washlets can even mix the water jet with soap for an improved cleaning process.

The washlet can replace toilet paper completely, but many users opt to improve the hygiene in combination with the mechanical action of the toilet paper. This also depends on the cleaned region, and the cleaning of the vulva may not need toilet paper. Some people use toilet paper before washing, some after washing, some use only the bidet and others do not use the bidet at all and prefer to use toilet paper. A second commonly found feature is a blow drier, often adjustable between 40°C and 60°C to dry the private regions after cleaning with the integrated bidet.[19]

[edit] Advanced features

Other features may include a heated seat, which may be adjustable from 30°C to 40°C; an automatic lid equipped with a proximity sensor, which opens and closes based on the location of the user.[4] Some even play music to relax the user's sphincter (some Inax toilets, for example, play the first few tunes of Op. 62 Nr. 6 Frühlingslied by Felix Mendelssohn). Other features are automatic flushing, automatic air deodorizing, and a germ-resistant surface.[4][20][37] Some models specially designed for the elderly may include arm rests and devices that help the user to stand up after use. A soft close feature slows the toilet lid down while closing so the lid does not slam onto the seat, or in some models, the toilet lid will close automatically a certain time after flushing. The most recent introduction is the ozone deodorant system that can quickly eliminate smells. Also, the latest models store the times when the toilet is used and have a power saving mode that warms the toilet seat only during times when the toilet is likely to be used based on historic usage patterns. Some toilets also glow in the dark or may even have air conditioning below the rim for hot summer days. Another recent innovation is intelligent sensors that detect someone standing in front of the toilet and initiate an automatic raising of the lid (if the person is facing away from the toilet) or the lid and seat together (if someone is facing the toilet).[4]

Text explaining the controls of these toilets tend to be in Japanese only. Although many of the buttons often have pictograms, the flush button is often written only in Kanji meaning that users who are not well versed in the Japanese writing system may be unable to flush the toilet except through random button pressing. Thus, despite the many advanced features, the toilet is unusable for some foreigners.

[edit] Future developments

Recently, researchers have added medical sensors into these toilets, which can measure the blood sugar based on the urine, and also measure the pulse, blood pressure, and the body fat content of the user.[3][4] Talking toilets that greet the user have also started being made.[4] Other measurements are currently being researched. These data may automatically be sent to a doctor through a built-in internet-capable cellular telephone.[37] However, these devices are still very rare in Japan, and their future commercial success is difficult to predict. A voice-operated toilet that understands verbal commands is under development.[4] TOTO, NAIS, and other companies also produce portable, battery-operated travel washlets, which must be filled with warm water before use.

The seat-heating feature is very common, found even on toilets that lack the bidet features. Often this is used as an example of unnecessary use of technology, but as most Japanese homes lack central heating, the bathroom may be only a few degrees above freezing in the winter, and a pre-warmed seat may not seem so frivolous.[4][19]

[edit] Washlet Syndrome

The repetitive use of a Washlet type water jet on a high-pressure setting for an enema, can weaken the capability for self-evacuation of the Washlet user, which can lead to more serious constipation. [38] If a Washlet high-pressure water jet is used on the anus repeatedly, it may cause excessive cleanliness, prompting other bacteria to adhere around the anus, causing skin disease (inflammation) around the anus. Some proctologists in Japan have named this "Washlet Syndrome (ウォシュレット症候群 woshuretto shoukougun?)" or "Warm-water toilet seat Syndrome (温水便座症候群 on-sui ben-za shoukougun?) [39][40]

[edit] Male and female urinals

Modern Japanese urinal

Urinals in Japan are very similar to the urinals in the rest of the world, and mainly used for public male toilets or male toilets with a large number of users. They often are, however, mounted lower compared to urinals in the west.

Before and during the Meiji Era, urinals were commonly used by both men and women. Traditionally, a kimono is worn without underwear, and the females merely pulled up their kimono, and with an upward pull on their vulva, were able to direct the urine forward into the urinal. This practice disappeared in the 20th century, after most women started wearing western-style clothing. Nowadays, even kimono are almost always worn with underwear. The female urinal had a small revival between 1951 and 1968, when TOTO was producing female urinals. This device was shaped like a cone and placed on the floor. However, those were never very popular, and only a few of them are left, including those underneath the Japan National Stadium from the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.[10]

[edit] Japan-specific accessories

Toilets in Japan have very similar accessories as most toilets worldwide, including toilet paper, a toilet brush, a sink, etc. However, there are some Japan-specific accessories that are rarely found outside of Japan.

[edit] The Sound Princess

An Otohime in a women's room: The black square is the motion sensor for starting and stopping the sound

Many Japanese women are embarrassed at the thought of being heard by others during urination[41] (see paruresis). To cover the sound of bodily functions, many women flushed public toilets continuously while using them, wasting a large amount of water in the process.[41] As education campaigns did not stop this practice, a device was introduced in the 1980s[3] that, after activation, produces the sound of flushing water without the need for actual flushing. One brand name commonly found is the Otohime (Japanese: 音姫), which literally means Sound Princess, and is named after the Japanese goddess Otohime (the goddess's name, though, is written with different kanji (乙姫) meaning "younger princess"), the beautiful daughter of the sea-king Ryūjin. This device is now routinely placed in most new public women's rooms, and many older public women's rooms have been upgraded.[41] The Otohime may be either a separate battery-operated device attached to the wall of the toilet, or included in an existing washlet. The device is activated by pressing a button, or by the wave of a hand in front of a motion sensor. When activated, the device creates a loud flushing sound similar to a toilet being flushed. This sound either stops after a preset time or can be halted through a second press on the button. It is estimated that this saves up to 20 liters of water per use.[3] However, some women believe that the Otohime sounds artificial and prefer to use a continuous flushing of the toilet instead of the recorded flush of the Otohime. So far, there appears to be no demand for these devices for men's public toilets, and the devices are almost never installed in men's restrooms.[42]

[edit] Toilet slippers

A pair of toilet slippers

In Japanese culture, there is a tendency to separate areas into clean and unclean, and the contact between these areas is minimized. For example, the inside of the house is considered a clean area, whereas the outside of the house is considered unclean. To keep the two areas separated, shoes are taken off before entering the house so that the unclean shoes do not touch the clean area inside of the house. Historically, toilets were located outside of the house, and shoes were worn for a trip to the toilet. Nowadays, the toilet is almost always inside the home and hygienic conditions have improved significantly, but the toilet is still considered an unclean area, even though other places are much more likely to have higher bacterial contamination.[43] To minimize contact between the unclean toilet floor and the clean floor in the rest of the house, many private homes and also some public toilets have toilet slippers (トイレスリッパ toire surippa?) in front of the toilet door that should be used when in the toilet and removed right after leaving the toilet.[2] This also indicates if the toilet is in use. They can be as simple as a pair of rubber slippers, decorated slippers with prints of anime characters for small children, or even animal fur slippers for those with money to spend. A frequent faux pas of foreigners is to forget to take off the toilet slippers after a visit to the restroom, and then use these in the non-toilet areas, hence mixing the clean and unclean areas.[44][45][46]

[edit] Public toilets

Public toilets are usually readily available all over Japan, and can be found in department stores, supermarkets, book stores, CD shops, parks, most convenience stores, and in all but the most rural train stations. Some older public toilet buildings lack doors, meaning that men using the urinals are in full view of people walking past. Beginning in the 1990s, there has been a movement to make public toilets cleaner and more hospitable than they had been in the past. It is not uncommon, however, to see Japanese men urinating in public, inebriated or not.[47][48] However, this practice, called tachi shonben (立ち小便 ?, lit. standing urine), is generally frowned upon in Japanese society.

The number of public restrooms that have both western and squat types of toilets is increasing.[2] Many train stations in the Tokyo area and public schools throughout Japan, for example, only have squat toilets. In addition, parks, temples, traditional Japanese restaurants, and older buildings typically only have squat toilets. Western style toilets are usually indicated by the kanji characters 洋式 (yōshiki), the English words "Western-style", a symbol for the type of toilet, or any combination of the three. Handicapped bathrooms are always western style.

Toilet paper is usually but not always available, so many Japanese carry small packets of tissue for use as toilet paper.[2] Such packets are routinely passed out to pedestrians as advertisements. Coin-operated toilet paper vending machines are sometimes installed outside bathrooms as a last resort for the desperate or ill-prepared.

Many public toilets do not have soap for washing hands, or towels for drying hands. Many people carry a handkerchief with them for such occasions,[2] and some even carry soap. Some public toilets are fitted with powerful hand dryers to reduce the volume of waste generated from paper towels. Hand dryers and taps are usually installed with motion-sensors as an additional resource saving measure. Some people simply do not wash their hands, but this is considered as much of a faux pas in Japan as it is in other cultures. At the bottom of the cleanliness spectrum are restrooms in train stations and public parks.

[edit] Cultural aspects

In Japan, being clean is very important, and some Japanese words for 'clean' can be used to describe beauty. The word kirei (きれい, 綺麗) can be defined as "pretty, beautiful; clean; pure; orderly." This may explain both the continuing success of squat toilets without any physical contact, and also the success of the high tech toilet with a built-in bidet. Occasionally, even a western-style toilet is used as a squat toilet by a self-conscious (or ignorant) user that squats by standing on the toilet seat. However, many people prefer merely to lift their bottoms from the seat, with their feet remaining firmly on the floor.[49][50] There is also a large market for deodorants and air fresheners that add a pleasant scent to the area. One company has gone so far as to develop a pill, to be taken with food, that supposedly renders bowel movements odorless.[51]

In the often crowded living conditions of Japanese cities and with the lack of rooms that can be locked from inside in a traditional Japanese house, the toilet is one of the few rooms in the house that allows for privacy. Some toilet rooms are equipped with a bookshelf, in others people may enter with a newspaper, and some are even filled with character goods and posters. Even so, these toilets are, whenever possible, in rooms separate from those for bathing. This is due to the ethic of separating clean from unclean, and this fact is a selling point in properties for rent.[52]

Both the traditional squat toilet and the high-tech toilet are a source of confusion for foreigners unaccustomed to these devices. There are humorous reports of foreigners using a toilet, and randomly pressing buttons on the control panel either out of curiosity or in search for the flushing control, and suddenly to their horror receiving a jet of water directed at their genitals or anus. As the water jet continued for a few seconds after they jumped up, they also got themselves or the bathroom wet.[19][31] Many Japanese toilets now feature pressure sensitive seats that automatically shut off the bidet when the person gets up. Many also have the buttons written in English to reduce the culture shock.

[edit] Environmental aspects

The environmental impact of modern style washlets differs from regular flush toilets. Modern toilets use less water than old toilets, and the self cleaning options also reduce the amount of detergent.[53] Some toilets even change the amount of water for the flush depending if the seat was flipped up (indicating male urination) or not.[20] They also cause less toilet paper to be used. On the other hand, these toilets also consume energy, and are estimated to consume 5% of the energy of the average Japanese household.[54] In rural areas, toilets that use very little or no water have also been designed.[3] These are also considered as emergency toilets in case of earthquakes.[55]

[edit] Economy

Electrically raised toilet seat for the elderly

Washlets in Japan cost from US$200, with the majority priced around US$500 for washlet upgrades for existing western style toilets. Top of the range washlets including the ceramic bowl can easily cost up to US$5000.

TOTO is the largest producer of toilets, including washlets, worldwide.[56] Washlets and other toilet related products are also produced by Inax, NAIS, and Panasonic.

The total market worldwide for high-tech toilets was about US$800 million in 1997. The largest producer is TOTO, with 65% of the market share, while the second largest is Inax at 25%.[5][19] The main market for washlets is still in Japan, and TOTO reports that overseas sales account for just 5% of their revenue.[5] The primary foreign market is China, where Toto sells over one million washlets each year. In the U.S. for example, sales are well below Japanese levels, even though sales improved from 600 units per month in 2001 to 1000 units per month in 2003. In Europe, TOTO sells only 5000 washlets annually.[5] While most Europeans would probably regard Japanese washlets as quite a curiosity, the number of such toilets being installed in Europe is actually on the rise. This is mainly for the special purpose of toilets for the handicapped. Depending on the type of disability, handicapped persons may have difficulties reaching the anus region in order to clean themselves after toilet use. Hence, the introduction of toilets with a water jet cleaner and blow dryer allows such persons to clean themselves without assistance.

There are a number of reasons for low sales outside Japan. One main reason is that it takes some time for the customers to get used to the idea of a washlet. Sales in Japan were also slow when the device was introduced in 1980, but after some acclimatization, sales improved significantly starting in 1985. Around 1990, 10% of Japanese households had a washlet, and this number increased greatly to over 50% in 2002.[5] TOTO expects a corresponding improvement in foreign sales within the next few years. Another reason is the lack of a power supply near the toilet. While virtually all Japanese washrooms have a plug behind the toilet, many foreign bathrooms do not have a nearby outlet. In Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, the UK, and many other countries, high amperage electrical outlets installed in close proximity to water or where persons may be wet are prohibited by legally enforced codes due to health and safety reasons.[5] Finally, in Europe, there is the competition of the traditional Western bidet; conversely, North Americans are not accustomed to any sort of bidet.[5]

Switzerland has its own producer of shower toilets, with a history predating the washlet in Japan. Trade names are Clos-o-Mat produced by Total Hygiene and Geberella, produced by Balena. These toilets are sold primarily for hospitals, private homes, and a few high-level restaurants, and may include features similar to those of Japanese products.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Japanese toilets". Retrieved on 2006-10-30. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "High-Tech Toilets" ([dead link]Scholar search). Web Japan. Retrieved on 2009-03-04. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Brooke, James (October 8 2002). "Japanese Masters Get Closer to the Toilet Nirvana". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2006-11-05. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Reuters, Tokyo (September 28 2003). "US, Europe unready for super-toilets, but Japan is patient". Taipei Times. Retrieved on 2006-11-08. 
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