Monday, 27 April 2009

Gossip For Tourists In Japan - Toto Toilets And The Sound Princess

In a country known for innovative technology, are we really justified in being surprised that they have the most advanced public toilets as well? Concentrating on comfort, cleanliness and even attempting to ease embarrassment, Japanese toilets are far beyond what most expect, though for anyone living there, these should be fast becoming the norm.

Of course we won't go into the health befits of the squat toilets from yesteryears that are still common here, but are really not as innovative as you'd hope from the Japanese. Those you'd find in other Asian countries as well, mostly in villages though.

When it comes to a bit of innovation, it starts here by eliminating embarrassment. Talk about the discomfort of knowing someone is in a stall next to you and can actually hear you making some funny sounds; funny to them but embarrassing for you. Japanese tech people have remedied this by creating a device commonly referred to as a 'Sound Princess'. Found in almost all of the newer public restrooms, the device, when turned on, literally sounds like a flushing toilet, drowning out any other sound that might be made when using the facilities. This ensures that even the shyest of people can relax, knowing no one can hear them.

What Japan really has to offer in modern toilets industry, if you want to call it that, are the washlets that have a variety of features to please everyone (...yes, we are still talking toilets). The control panel for the Washlet might remind you of something you might see in a spaceship; these toilets may look ordinary, but are anything but normal.

A common feature on each is a bidet, which can be combined with toilet paper, or used on its own to wash anything and everything. Most have two nozzles, with adjustable water pressure to each area, gently cleansing without being uncomfortable. Many Washlets have built in dryers, making toilet paper unnecessary. Comfort doesn't stop here though, with heaters attached, cold seats are a thing of the past. Some models even have automated lid opening, closing and flushing, catering to males and females with the push of a button.

Making those unavoidable trips to the loo is never welcomed by anyone, but Japanese have made the whole thing an experience worth trying. The only main problem that most tourists face in these toilets is the language barrier. The control panels have Japanese instructions and once seated getting up can become tricky. There is no question though that these toilets are catching up in the rest of the world as well, even the hi-tech man in black, Will Smith, when building his house got the Japanese to supply his toilets.

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