Americans Should Get on the Japanese Washlet Bandwagon

Sometimes you fall down an Internet rabbit hole, and that rabbit hole is about Japanese toilets. Now that I’ve spent my afternoon reading about these “washlets” in Priceonomics, I want one of them (cost: $1,100 to $1,700 to install, which I won’t do because I rent my place).

The Japanese washlets are far superior, at least technologically, to your average American toilet: There are motion sensors that raise and close the lid so you don’t have to touch it, a seat that can heat up, and a spraying system that cleans your private areas making toilet paper usage unnecessary (except for drying purposes). You’re also much cleaner (in a commercial for the Japanese washlet, a young woman dabs a glob of paint on her hand, and then shows why only using toilet paper to wipe the glob off will never get her hand fully clean). Wait, there’s more!

Here’s a 2009 article in The Telegraph by Hunter Skipworth that talks about some other ingenious features, including “a button which can be pressed to make a flushing sound, thus covering up any bathroom-related noises.” You know what bathroom noises he’s talking about. You’ve lived with other humans. You know what people do when they don’t have a button that can be pressed to make a flushing sound to cover up bathroom-related noises? They turn on the sink and let all that perfectly good water go to waste. These washlets even come with SD card readers so you can play music while you go. Dubstep will certainly cover up whatever noises you’ll make.

Why hasn’t the washlet found a market in the U.S.? People don’t generally like to talk about their bathroom habits, nor are we easily amenable to changes when it comes to changing them. Steve Scheer, a founder of a toilet startup in San Francisco trying to make inroads in the U.S. toilet market, told Priceonomics:

“You wouldn’t imagine how many people giggle nervously or say ‘gross’ when we try to educate them about the advantages of the bidet seat, yet these are the same people that are still using paper – a much inferior way to cleanse oneself.”

It took the Japanese some convincing as well. According to The Wall Street Journal, when a commercial for the washlet came out in Japan in 1982, the manufacturer was “flooded with angry calls” from Japanese consumers saying they could never consider replacing toilet paper with a spraying system. Now, three quarters of households in Japan have a washlet-like toilet. The Japanese are so used to their amazing washlets that when they come to the U.S., they often carry along a portable toilet spray with them because they don’t like American toilets and think our toilet paper is too rough.

According to TOTO, a manufacturer of washlets, there are currently five states in the U.S. with locations you can go to test out a washlet. There are 17 Japanese restaurants in New York that have them. Erm, who wants to get some sushi with me?

Photo: Toto USA

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12 Comments / Post A Comment

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

There’s a bar somewhere in Berkeley I went to that had one of these, and a sushi place in West Seattle had one, too. It was kind of weird to use! I definitely wouldn’t want one in my home. The heated seat feels…gross. Like on public transportation when you sit down and the seat is warm from the space person who was just practicing his harmonica or whatever. No thanks.

@aeroaeroaero I don’t know about a bar, but I know Ippuku in Berkeley has one.

Every time I see one of these, I think of that scene with Dermot Mulroney on “New Girl” – “You put it up to six happy faces, I’ve never gone past three!”

aeroaeroaero (#1,422)

@KathleenD@twitter It was Club Mallard! I just remembered. Weird place, weird toilets.

selenana (#673)

@aeroaeroaero I love my heated toilet seat so much. Also we don’t tend to have central heating in Japan, so they are bliss.

saritasara (#2,710)

@selenana Yes, they are so amazing!! Sadly my apartment, while new-ish, just has a regular toilet.
I hear a lot of people say the warm seat feeling is squicky, for the same reasons @aeroaeroaero mentioned, but I think it’s fantastic. The shock of sitting down on an ice-cold toilet seat is not fun.

RocketSurgeon (#747)

My OB/GYN’s office has them in every bathroom. It’s pretty nifty. You can control the direction of the spray (front, back) and there’s even a pleasant hot-air drying feature. And you don’t have to heat the seat. If I didn’t rent, I’d consider having one installed.

Megano! (#124)

If dubstep ISN’T enough to conceal the noises you make, you might wanna talk to your doctor.

when I was in Japan for two weeks a few years ago I was amused by toilet dichotomy. I swear, it was either these amazing toilets or squat toilets. Very little in between.

I’m all for it. It will just make my horrifying Peace Corps toilet-related stories seem that much more hardcore to the coddled (m)asses.

kellyography (#250)

I don’t want anything spraying up my butt, though. Get wet wipes!

mariko (#2,706)

I had to register (after lurking for too long) to say that most people who are uncomfortable with TOTO bidet toilets probably haven’t used one. I admit I was intimidated by them too – but I can only sing their praises! It seriously makes going to the restroom enjoyable & makes you want to spend longer than normal fiddling with the different gadgets. PLUS! – it is so nice that the toilet acknowledges your presence & you don’t have to touch a toilet cover, seat or handle. The entire process feels much cleaner!

I can’t believe this is my first comment…

You can get a bidet toilet attachment for about $35 on Amazon or eBay, which I totally did after returning from living in Japan.

It does not sing to me, though. Not even any little soothing bird noises.

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