Why are Japan’s toilets so much more technologically advanced compared to those in the USA?
Geoffrey Widdison, lived in Japan
Answered Jan 9
Because the Japanese people have proven far more willing to spend thousands of dollars on a toilet than are Americans.
The idea of one country’s toilets having better technology than another’s is kind of misleading. In a globalized world, technology is pretty much available to everyone who’s willing and able to pay for it. America has the money, but not the willingness. Which is probably a pretty good answer to why these overdesigned toilets aren’t being competed with by any American companies.
From an American perspective, it’s pretty obvious why most Americans wouldn’t be willing to pay. Americans generally see the toilet as a purely functional object, that fulfills a very basic function, and one that we don’t really like to think about all that much. We deposit our bodily wastes in it, and it goes away, and that’s the end of it. As long as it performs that function, few people care about anything else. And you can easily get that for under 200 bucks, so why would you pay for anything else?
In Japan, the quality of one’s bathroom experience seems to be more important, to the point where a tricked-out toilet seems more important. There are a number of theories about why, and I’m reluctant to take a position on it. The thing is, that desire is mostly cultural. And Japan just simply has a different culture than the US, and accordingly different personal priorities.
Now, as I say this, I’m sure people will point out that the bidet function has inherent and objective advantages over toilet paper, and I happen to agree with that. American reluctance to accept bidets is a combination of inertia, bullheadedness, and an unwillingness to discuss or even think about scatological topics. That said, you can add a bidet to an American toilet for under 40 bucks. Bidets being superior doesn’t explain Japanese toilets.
Japanese toilets are all about bells and whistles: heated seats, built in white-noise generators, remote control operation with heated water and heated, scented air for drying with different temperature and pressure levels. All of that stuff is fine, but it’s not necessary by any reasonable definition, and most Americans have little interest in spending money on it. So Americans pay much less money for much simpler toilets.
TL;DR. A lot of Japanese people are willing to spend more money for more toilet functions to enhance their bathroom experience. Most Americans aren’t.
Ashley Shepherd, Music and Audio Producer, Tech Author, owner at Audiogrotto studios.
Answered Jan 9
Water cleansing is ceremonious in Japan.
Procter and Gamble won the butt cleaning debate in the US.
The act of cleaning oneself with water is as close to sacred in Japan as you can get, from what I have learned. The temples I visited, specifically the famous one in Osaka, had elaborate hand cleaning rituals at their entrances. This jives with the reverence most Japanese have for the bathroom and routine cleaning of the body with water. The Toto Washlet is an obvious extension of that cultural idea.
In the US, people are hung up on toilet paper. Being the son of a life long P&G employee, I saw the brainwashing of their propaganda for butt cleaning with toilet paper. Its ridiculous. It’s like avoiding the shower after a mud wrestling match and instead, using paper towels to clean yourself off. That’s silly. Take a freekin’ shower!
After traveling to Japan a few times, I ordered a Toto Washlet lid for my house and have now named it “The Best Day Ever”. No more monkey-butt. Good to go! It was not thousands of dollars and Amazon delivered it right to my door.
You could use the blow dryer but a little TP to pat dry and you’re off to the races… :)
Le Hao, B.A. International Business, Aalto University School of Business
Answered Jan 8
I used to have a Japanese professor who has, by now, spent most of his life in the USA, but he visits Japan with his family sometimes. He told our class this: “Whenever I come back to Japan I’m always shocked. I’m Japanese but I’m still shocked. I’m shocked at how fast they (the Japanese) develop new technologies that makes daily lives more convenient. My sons always told me they felt that the US is usually ten years behind Japan when it came to technology (his sons were children when they said this so cut them some slack). But I think our innovations aren’t always transparent. Because they usually hide in everyday objects. You guys probably know about the toilets; those are popular. But there are others too. Did you know that Panasonic has a fridge that keeps your frozen meat soft? The meat is frozen, but it stays soft just like when it’s fresh. Can you believe it?
I think the Japanese, we usually focus on making our daily lives more convenient. That’s why Japanese companies like producing everyday objects; but they make them better, more innovated. It’s a principle behind Japanese companies that you need to understand when you study them; they put the customers first, and the investors second. That’s why you should buy Japanese products, but invest in American companies.”
So in short, according to my Japanese professor, Japanese toilets are more tehnologically advanced because Japanese companies focus on innovating them, more so than American companies. Because in their mindset, the Japanese like to improve objects that they use everyday. Their innovations may not always be acknowledged, because the innovated objects are often mundane, but that’s the way they like to do things.