Here at RocketNews24 we love a good toilet story, whether it’s the health benefits of old-school squatters or a visit to a long drop. And the washlet toilet, with its wash-and-blow dry function, noise-masking function and hilariously perplexing control panels, is one of Japan’s most famous inventions.
But what if, just like Napoleon’s height and the Vikings’ spiky helmets, the ultimate icon of technological wizardry is also surrounded by misconception and mystery? What if (almost) everything we know about super-toilets is wrong?
Think you know your washlet? Think again.
Top five washlet misconceptions (washconceptions?):
1) It’s a washlet.
Although people call any kind of toilet that also has the function to wash your posterior a “washlet” (or ‘woshuretto‘ in Japanese), the name is actually a trademark of TOTO, the world’s largest toilet manufacturer.
▼World’s largest toilet manufacturer: not to be confused with the world’s largest toilet.
So although it may be customary to call any heated-seat, butt-washing toilet a “washlet”, if you really want to impress your Japanese friends, you should try call it by its generic name sometime 温水洗浄便座 (onsui senjou benza, meaning “hot-water cleaning toilet seat”). That is, if your idea of impressing people is to engage them in conversation about hot-water cleaning toilet seats. Otherwise, you should probably just call it a washlet like everybody else does.
2) Everyone has one!
Depending on how you count and on who you ask, between half and three-quarters of Japanese households have a washlet-style toilet. But plenty of people have non-robotic Western-style toilets, or even on-the-floor squat toilets (although admittedly those are falling out of favour). And especially in rural areas, some households actually have pit toilets, which is a whole other story completely.
3) It’s clean!
Most people probably don’t want to look too closely at the inside of their toilet, but here at RocketNews24 we take our research very, very seriously. So go on, take a look inside the bowl. I dare ya.
Next to the magical terrifying nozzle, there’s a little square part. This, my friend, is the deodorizer. Yep. This snazzy little function sucks the stinky air up after you’re done in that little room, leaving your washroom smelling fresh and clean.
▼ Thanks to this deodorizing assistant, no one will have any idea what you were doing in there!
Just don’t forget to clean out this cruddy little corner of the universe, though, or it’ll end up looking like this.
▼ Like most things in life, a washlet is only clean if you clean it.
Ewwww. Ewwwwwww. Sorry about that. Here’s a stuffed toy-let to look at instead.
▼ Much better.
4) It’s good for you…
Well, yes and no. The washlet’s main USP is that using a water function to clean yourself up is more thorough and hygienic than toilet paper. In a super-clean country like Japan, the “why wipe when you could wash?” concept was always going to be a hit. As such, people like to claim all kinds of health benefits of the washlet – if you’re constipated, it’s even said that an enthusiastic spray of the water nozzle will get things moving. But we also find warnings like this:
Please, only use the washlet [bidet function] for 30 to 60 seconds at a time, one to three times a day.
Overuse can cause inflammation and irritation, and we don’t want that. So it seems there are caveats to this “good for your health” thing. Don’t turn the bidet up too hot (ouch!), and don’t use it for too long or too often. Everything in moderation!
5) The future is washlet
TOTO, which takes its company name from an abbreviation of Tōyō Tōki (東洋陶器 Oriental Ceramics), has been trying to crack the American market for some time now, but with limited success. Converts to the washlet do tend to be evangelical about it, like this Amazon.com reviewer:
“Believe me, after using one of these for a year you will consider the 600 and some odd dollars it costs as the best bargain of your life. You will also wonder why everyone else is not using one and what took you so long to buy one. You might begin to view your neighbors as bathroom neanderthals.”
But although TOTO exports in huge numbers to China, and there’s also a San Francisco start-up trying to bring the washlet to the US, that’s about it. The washlet is a huge hit in Japan, but has simply never caught on in other countries, due to expense (a seat plus installation can easily run to US $1000) and good old-fashioned squeamishness.
▼Move along now, nothing to see here.
It’s easy to look at the robotic toilet in front of you and think “this is the future!” But as far as the international market goes, until a marketing genius who can take it to the next level appears, it looks like the washlet (sorry, “hot-water cleaning toilet seat”) will remain an only-in-Japan treasure.
How do you feel about Japanese toilets? Where do you stand on the eternal paper-versus-jetstream debate? Let us know in the comments.