Anyone who's been to Japan knows that they have some pretty advanced technology over there. Anyone who's gone to the bathroom in Japan knows that they have some pretty awesome toilets. No, I'm not talking about the old school squat toilets (yuck), I'm talking about the Japanese toilets of the future. Toilets that talk to you, wash you, and even warm your bum on a cold morning. Why don't we have these things in America?
The Superiority of Japanese Toilets
Toilets are awesome. Well, Japanese ones are. They can talk to you, wash you, and even play music for you (both to relax and mask) while you do your business.
But probably the biggest reservation Americans (and others) would have with a Japanese toilet like the Toto Washlet (pictured above), is the bidet (and having a toilet that could potentially become self-aware). Below we have an animated video explaining how the standalone bidets work.
A traditional bidet is just a low oval basin designed for washing your privates. Most Japanese toilets have the bidet feature built in. Many Americans are not fond of the idea of either method. Is there a reason for this? Why yes, yes there is.
Why Americans Think Bidets Are Stupid
First, we must travel back in time to the origin of the bidet. These things first showed up in France in the early 1700s. Since then, the bidet has spread far and wide, becoming standard in many European countries, South America, the Middle East, and Asia. An estimated 80% of bathrooms in those areas have bidets in them. America, on the other hand, pretty much has none.
Never in my years have I seen a bidet in America. The reasons for this are shrouded in mystery, but there are some theories. Since it was invented by the French, some believe that the concept was then rejected by the British, and that feeling of rejection carried over to the settlers in America. Some think that American soldiers most often saw bidets in European brothels, and erroneously associated them with immorality.
A reason that stand-alone bidets might not have caught on is that many American bathrooms are not made large enough to house them. Then again, bathrooms could always be made larger, and current Japanese toilets have the bidet built in, so take from this what you will.
In the 1960s, a guy named Arnold Cohen tried to market a bidet in America, but soon realized that 99% of Americans had never even heard of a bidet before. This made people wary of purchasing this strange newfangled butt fountain. In the 1980s, the Japanese company Toto started pushing their toilet/bidet hybrid, and met largely the same issues that Arnold saw twenty years earlier.
Also, interestingly enough, most people who grew up with bidets believe the toilet paper only method to be unsanitary whereas those brought up on TP only believe bidets to be inferior. Unfortunately I've never used the bidet feature on the Japanese toilets I've encountered, but Koichi has, and he loves them almost as much as full body pillows. I figure I would probably use both the bidet feature in conjunction with TP, but I can definitely recognize the benefits of using a bidet.
Japanese Toilets in America
Fancy Japanese toilets are also pretty expensive. The Toto Washlet add-on lids (see above) currently go for anywhere from $300 to over $1000 on Amazon. And that's just like, your basic model. These forego the separate bidet and just integrate it into the toilet which takes care of any space issues.
But still, these toilets are by no means cheap. Additionally, people tend to be pretty stuck in their ways when it comes to bathroom issues, so there's not too many people looking to "upgrade" their toilets. Check out this quote from the president of a recent toilet start-up company.
For Americans here in the US, the biggest issues are personal experience with these products and a major reluctance to discuss bathroom issues or change ingrained habits. 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.
The reviews for Toto Washlets and other toilets are stellar. The people who actually have them love them. But efforts to spread this enthusiasm to the rest of America have been utterly unsuccessful. Toto has been working hard to push their toilets on Americans but have pretty much gotten nowhere.
Another issue involving expense is that you need a three pronged grounded outlet to plug your Toto Washlet into. Depending on where your bathroom outlets are, this can be pretty inconvenient, and getting a new one installed can cost around $500 or so. Not cheap. There are also cheap bidet attachments that are just bidet only, but those aren't Japanese so I won't get into them here.
The people who have actually given Japanese toilets a chance love them. The rest of America just needs to be convinced how awesome they are. They need to be marketed well. However, marketing toilets and toilet accessories probably isn't the easiest thing to do, but maybe someone will figure out a good way to do this.
It really just seems that people are reluctant to change their toilets because their current ones work just fine and are perfectly sanitary in their eyes. So why spend more time and money upgrading a toilet when their current one works just fine? That's the argument that bidet marketers need to conquer in the US. Will they eventually succeed? Only time will tell.