A Brief Trip Through Japan’s High Tech Toilet Culture

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A Brief Trip Through Japan’s High Tech Toilet Culture
Image: Getty

Japanese toilets have a mythology behind them that’s unmatched in the world of sanitary products. They’ve been immortalised in pop culture and are fascinating for foreign visitors — but when and why did they become popular? Join us as we take a brief trip through the world of the Japanese loo.

The high tech bidet is incredibly popular in Japan, although traditional Western flush and squat models are still in use. 81 per cent of Japanese homes have a bidet installed, according to a 2016 customer survey.

What is a bidet?

Bidets are high tech toilets designed for washing genitals and surrounding regions. While you’ll still need to dry yourself after using them, they effectively clean your buttocks after a bathroom visit using a water-based nozzle or jet system.

While bidets were first developed in Europe (where they are also widely adopted) they were popularised in Japan because of their high tech gadgetry.

The Toto Zoe Washlet is likely the most recognisable of these smart bidets. It was developed in the mid-90s and featured a fan and retractable spray nozzle among other innovations.

Since the Zoe washlet, Japanese bidets have only gotten smarter, and many of the modern ones offer conveniences like oscillating buttock cleaning, soft lights for nighttime usage and ‘ewater+’ that sanitises as it cleans.

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Why are bidets so popular in Japan?

Japan has always focused on innovation and technology to solve future problems. Many notable innovations were spawned from this direction, including robotic assistants and the pocket music player. That focus extends to the humble toilet as well.

Bidets have several benefits over traditional Western toilets, particularly for personal hygiene, cleanliness and politeness. Japan has always valued good etiquette, and bidet features like motion-sensing flushing and automatic cleaning can help reduce the spread of germs and bad hygiene. Many bidets also have an ‘otohime’ to neutralise flushing sounds and maintain modesty in public.

Continued innovation has made the bidet more accessible and practical than the standard Western flush toilet in the country.

With the current toilet paper crisis facing Australia, sales of these bidets have leapt by 500 per cent locally. Should the crisis continue, a bidet would be a sustainable and worthwhile investment for the future.

In the meantime, check out a handy list of toilet paper alternatives from our pals at Gizmodo.

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