Japan’s Hi-Tech Toilets: 2014 Edition!

When we started talking about Japanese homes recently, we remembered that actually, more so than tatami, sliding doors and all that jazz, the things that really get attention worldwide in a Japanese home are the toilets. Back in 2008 we published a popular article about Japan’s hi-tech toilets, including the TOTO Washlet, and it got us wondering how things were shaping up six years on. Actually, just like in 2008, TOTO were featured in last year’s Tokyo Designers Week so general interest is still strong in these fancy chamber pots. We went along to the TOTO showroom in Tokyo to find out more about the latest lavatorial developments.

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The indefatigable quest for cleanliness

In our 2008 article we focussed on the Washlet. What are toilets like now? Well, it’s only been six years so there haven’t been dramatic changes in that time per se but needless to say, the Japanese toilet is always evolving. First of all, there’s the materials. Using TOTO’s original technology CeFiONtect, the ceramic surface is given a 1mm glaze that prevents the build-up of dirt. But of course, that’s not all. TOTO toilets also have an ewater+ function where a sensor detects when someone comes close to the toilet and then sprays the bowl with a mist of water. This gives the bowl a water coating before you get, ahem, started. After you are finished, the bowl is then washed with electrolyzed water that is antibacterial and cleans the toilet better.

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ewater+ functions on the TOTO toilet first spray the bowl with a mist of water and then clean it afterwards with antibacterial electrolyzed water.

A toilet is more than a toilet: It’s a whole space

Is it enough just for the toilet itself to be clean? No, TOTO also thinks about the rest of the room in order to make visiting the toilet a comfortable experience. This was evident when we went to the Shinjuku showroom. It’s not just a TOTO showroom; materials makers DAIKEN and YKK AP are also showing off their wares, and this means you can see examples of total toilet planning, from the toilet bowl itself to the flooring and the interior. The toilet has evolved into a perfect, customized space where you can relax more than in any room in the house.

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Toilets in the age of ecology

When you are adding features and functions to something, these days you can’t escape what to do about the environment. And this is the same with hi-tech toilets. First of all, they now have water-saving features. Previously a single flush would use as much as 13 liters of water but now it has been reduced to just 4.8 or 3.8 liters. Of course, you can’t then let the cleaning power of the toilet be similarly reduced so this water reduction has been realized for the first time alongside an enhancement of the cleaning technology.

Tornado Flush is a TOTO toilet function where a small amount of water is used more efficiently to clean dirt by having it flush the bowl in a whirlpool pattern.

And not only water-saving, Japan’s famously heated toilet seats have also been improved in recent years so that they sense movement and can warm up quickly only when being used, lowering the electricity consumption.

Toilets for seniors

We saw a lot of different kinds of toilets at the showroom but one section that really stood out was the toilets for seniors. Care for the elderly is likely the most severe problem facing toilets. This toilet that went on sale last year can be installed right next to your bed. While it used to be a problem how such toilets would connect to the sewers, this model solves the dilemma of how to install a flush toilet without major construction work.

toto2014_06 In order to be able to flush using a thin water pipe, this toilet adds a special pump unit to crush up waste and then flush it.

Clean. Comfortable. But also fun?

As we previously featured in our Tokyo Designers Week 2013 round-up, TOTO creates a real range of unique toilets. While these are not necessarily going to become products in the future, they do give us hints of what the next kind of lavatory might be like — hygienic, comfortable, and fun.

Thank you, TOTO.