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Japanese Toilets – The Best Invention in The Universe

When I am asked what I love so much about Japan I have a thousand answers: the food, the people, the service, and so on. One thing I can never find the courage to tell people about, though, is the toilets. The average person spends about 3 years on the toilet, and the Japanese are trying to make that three years as comfortable and as easy as possible. So, I am going to put my inhibitions aside and try to tell you why I think Japanese toilets are one of the best, yet understated inventions of the century.

When you fly into Japan you will land at Tokyo or Osaka and the first thing you will probably want to do is pay a visit to the little boy’s or girl’s room. When you open up that stall and sit down you will be confronted by an array of buttons. Don’t be alarmed! These buttons are all there to make your experience more comfortable and, believe it or not, to help the environment.

Let’s take the buttons in turn. The first you will use, probably the ladies more than the gents, is the one labeled "音" oto – sound. What this does is ingenious. Have you ever been sitting there, going about your daily business, and someone else comes into the bathroom? Those sounds you make are highly embarrassing and can even stop some people performing. If you press this button you will find the sound of rushing water, or music, flooding out of your toilet. The volume is adjustable and it will be enough to cover up any noises you might be making yourself. That in itself would be wonderful enough to heap praise on these toilets but there is more.

I live in the north of Japan where it can be extremely cold. Have you ever sat on a toilet seat in the middle of winter? That sudden, sharp shock can literally take your breath away and can make sitting down somewhat of a challenge. Japanese toilets come with an adjustable seat heater. These can be set manually or automatically. The automatic ones sense when someone is near and switch on. They have weight sensors in the seat so they don’t get too hot and switch off when the person stands up. There’s no better feeling in the world than a warm derriere.

Then we come to the end of our toilet journey. You have finished your activities. What do you do next? You reach for the toilet paper. In England, where I’m from, you need a lot. I can go through a roll in a few days. (Is that just me? That’s quite embarrassing.) The average American uses about 50 rolls of toilet paper a year. 1,000 rolls of toilet paper can be made from one average tree which means one tree provides for 200 Americans for a year. In Japan you don’t need more than a few sheets. Why? Because each toilet has a washlet adaption. With the press of a button a small nozzle comes out from the seat and a warm spray of water is aimed at those parts that most need it. This spray is entirely adjustable: the strength, height, angle, width, temperature. Once you’ve had a few seconds of that you only need a couple of sheets of toilet paper. In fact, modern toilets even have a drier so soon you won’t need any toilet paper at all. Beautifully clean and good for the environment.

Another environmental factor is the amount of water they use for a flush. Current American toilets use about 13 liters of water per flush. Modern Japanese toilets are calibrated to use less than 5 liters. I know that even 5 liters is a lot of water but compared to 13 it’s a drop in the ocean (if you’ll pardon the pun).

And now, we come to possibly the best part. Modern toilets are self-cleaning! When they are not being used they clean themselves. They have also done away with the rim at the top of the bowl. You know, the bit that always gets moldy and dirty and is a pain to clean. They are simply beautiful bowls of pure porcelain.

So, if you fancy giving yourself a treat, have a seat on a Japanese toilet. The buttons are self-explanatory and once you’ve tried one you’ll find it hard to go back.

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