One area where Japan has embraced tech is in its toilets. Japanese washlets (or “robo-toilets” as I like to call them), have all kinds of things such as automated motorized lids, heated seats, self cleaning bidet sprays with adjustable temperature, angle, and strength, warm air dryers, automatic air fresheners, multi-strength flush, and remote controls. Taking a dump in Japan is a pleasure, as long as your not using a squatter toilet (see below).
This can be a bit mystifying to foreigners who aren’t used to it, so the Japan Restroom Industry Association (日本レストルーム工業会) has come up with a standardized set of icons for the functions of toilets. The association consists of major manufacturers such as Toto and Panasonic (yes, Panasonic – they make LOTS of things in Japan.)
… the Japan Restroom Industry Association has come up with a standardized set of icons for the functions of toilets.
The Association Chief Kitamura said “We want to make operation of the equipment easy to understand since it would be regrettable if a foreigner missed a chance to experience the washlet. Furthermore we want to promote our business around the world.”
Part of the push for this is Japan’s desire to become more friendly to foreign visitors ahead of the 2020 Olympics which are being held in Tokyo.
Below is a photo I took of a washlet that I used a number of times at work and its controls. The box with a speaker plays a recorded sound of water running when when you wave your hand in front of it so people can’t hear you doing your business. The controls to the right are for the toilet’s functions. You can set seat temperature, water temperature, water spray strength, angle, warm air, timer, and the red button on the top-left is stop. It’s also outfited with an infrared sensor and will flush itself when you move away from it. (Click for larger version)
In contrast to the very nice-to-use washlets, traditional Japanese squatter toilets are quite unpleasant to use, especially for full size westerners. Squatting for more than a minute makes the legs start to ache and keeping balance while you reach for toilet paper and wipe is an acquired skill. These also don’t keep a large quantity of water in the bottom so the warm smell of anything put into it quickly rises full force to your nose.
Homes and apartments for the most part have western style toilets with many people installing washlets. Newer stores and restaurants often have western style toilets with older stores, convenience stores, and schools having squatters with a western style toilet or a washlet in the “universal” (family or handicap accessible) restroom.
The photo to the right was taken in a convenience store’s restroom. I think it might have been a ローソン (Lawson).