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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