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  • Writer's pictureKomaba Times

Japan's Dirty Little Secret


How much do you know about the toilet habits of the Japanese? In the land of the old, new and sometimes outright weird that is Japan, toilets are a lot different from your usual western style toilets. Toilets in Japan are split into two kinds-Washiki, a traditional Japanese style (和式) and Yōshiki (洋式), which is deemed western style. This article will explore all you wanted and maybe never wanted to know about toilets in Japan.

A traditional squat toilet. Photo by Chris73 |Wikimedia Commons.

The first washlet was introduced by the Toto Company in the 1980s. The growth of the washlet industry coincided with the bubble period of the Japanese economy, explaining their widespread prevalence today. Introduced in 1997, the Toto Washlet Zoe was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the most sophisticated toilet in the world. Fast forward to today, the Toto Washlet Neorest 600 is considered one of the most advanced toilets in the world, boasting many advanced features and costs up to $5000 USD. One is even said to be owned by American actor Will Smith. Nowadays, a whopping 81.2% of Japanese households are installed with western style sit down toilets, according to a study conducted by the Cabinet Office of the Japanese government. What makes them different from toilets commonly found in western countries, however, is the presence of the high-tech “Washlet” (ウォシュレット, washuretto). For those who don’t know, the washlet is an attachment often found on Japanese toilets that have a vast variety of functions, most popularly the “bidet”. It also usually comes with other high-tech capabilities such as deodorising, seat warming, front bidet wash and drying. The Otohime, Japanese for Goddess of Sound, is usually found in women’s toilets, which mimics the sounds of flushing to disguise the actual sound of toilet use.

A squirting washlet. Photo by Chris73 |Wikimedia Commons.

When I first came to Japan, I did not understand the purpose of washlet as I thought that the water which washes the behind came up from the toilet water. I did not get why people would want to soil themselves with the dirty water from the toilet. However, what actually happens was that a small pencil size nozzle is protracted out from the washlet and shoots water from a 43% angle that prevents the water from splattering back onto the nozzle. It is also has a self-cleaning function which washes the nozzle and the bowl with electrolysed water for further comfort of the mind. Talking with my Japanese friends, the biggest secret I uncovered was how few of them used the washlet regularly despite their widespread existence. I had imagined that given their prevalence, every Japanese people must have been using the washlet on a regular basis. Keita Arimitsu, a 4th year at UTokyo, is a staunch advocate. He says that “ he loves it and cannot live without it.” Others, however, rarely use it and some have never tried.

A japanese toilet function. Photo by Chris73 | Wikimedia Commons.

Statistically speaking, a sample study conducted by Ioex Co., 67.7% of the Japanese people responded that they use or have used the washlet. However, another study showed 40% usually do not use the Washlet. This is especially true when it came to public toilets, as results showed only 9% would use the functions in a public toilet. Of those that do not use the Washlet, the top reasons cited were that toilet paper alone seemed enough, as well as the fact that it seems unnecessary. What is interesting is that of those who do not use it, 64.5% believed that it was unhygienic. Women, in particular, were more likely to express concerns over the cleanliness of the nozzle. Whatever your toiletry habits are, using a Washlet in Japan is definitely a cultural experience not to be missed. I for one am glad that there is a warm seat to greet me every time I sit down. It just makes the whole experience, well, a little bit more enjoyable. Did you know? 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."


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