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The Japanese wonder toilet taking the world by storm

12/8/2017
The washlet is simplistic in design and will fit into any style bathroom
The washlet is simplistic in design and will fit into any style bathroom

You may have heard about the Japanese toilet seat. Perhaps you have tested one on a layover in Tokyo, or, like me, grew accustomed to using this fancy appliance when living in the country short-term.

They boast remote controls, heated seats and bidet functions - you can see why returning to a bog standard British toilet after my month abroad took some getting used to!

The Washlet is sensitive and will lift the seat automatically on approach
The Washlet is sensitive and will lift the seat automatically on approach

Our lavatories quite simply don’t compare to the Washlet, which is used in hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and houses all over Japan.

TOTO are the company that invented the product back in 1982, which has become a regular feature of most Japanese households for over 40 years. In fact, it is estimated that more than 70 per cent of the nation’s homes now feature a Washlet of some kind, while only 30 per cent are found to own a dishwasher!

TOTO first invented the Washlet, which has become a Japanese staple over the last 40 years
TOTO first invented the Washlet, which has become a Japanese staple over the last 40 years

I always thought these luxurious bathroom experiences would be limited to the very few occasions I could afford a trip to the land of the rising sun, never imagining I would be able to get my hands on one in old Blighty…

But my bottom (and I) are glad to say that thanks to TOTO, now celebrating its 100th birthday, the Washlet is available in Europe, with showrooms open in Germany, France, the UK and so on.

TOTO have showrooms in a number of European countries including France and the UK
TOTO have showrooms in a number of European countries including France and the UK

In fact, Floyd Case, TOTO’s specification and projects manager says: “Roughly, the rate of sale has more or less doubled year on year in Europe. For the UK in particular it was a slow start but it has picked up quite rapidly since, once the market got to understand the product.”

When I first realised that a TOTO showroom was open in north London, I could not hide how desperate I was to be the one chosen to write about it. Thankfully my editor approved - so off I went.

It was as vivid an experience as I remember. I was left to my own devices to trial the most high-end model in the store, worth somewhere in the not so modest region of £9,000! I moved eagerly towards the toilet and as if by magic, the seat lifted itself, hands free.

As it sensed my approach, the Washlet also sprayed the inside of the toilet bowl with a preparatory mist of what I was later told is electrolysed water, ensuring that as the manual explains, somewhat prudishly, “dirt” will not stick!

Next, as you sit down you really notice the heated seat - this is the sort of thing you don’t realise you need in your life until you’ve tried it. Pressing your derrière to an oval of cosy warmth, instead of receiving a mild chilly shock, is one of life’s true pleasures (trust me.) But if the seat feels too hot, you can also use the remote to adjust the temperature up or down, until your haunches are happy.

The bidet function is also at your command. This is, of course, the killer app of the Washlet and what separates the TOTO product from other toilet seats. You can adjust the temperature of the water up or down, emulating a refreshing spring rain or a hot outpour from a teapot. Likewise, you can manoeuvre the bidet’s cannon forward or backwards, to aim at just the right spot to clean your nether regions. Buttons on the remote can also activate oscillation or pulsation, and raise or lower the intensity of the splash.

I will spare you any effusive descriptions of my own experience with the Washlet, but instead I encourage you to trial it. It really is something that’s needs to be tried to be understood.

Of course, £9,000 is a ridiclous amount of money to spend on a toilet, however extraordinary it may be. TOTO do sell a more basic range of Washlet however, at around £2,160.

There is also the option to purchase the seat alone and install it on your pan at home, which comes in a little cheaper at around £1,056. But before buying one of these, do make sure to check that the Washlet is the right size for your toilet pan.

The average toilet seat costs somewhere in the region of £200, and many people cannot comprehend spending any more hard earned cash on something that devotes special attention to tending our backsides.

So, after trying the Washlet once more, do I think it is worth the hefty price? This depends on your priorities. Do you want to change your bathroom experience? Are you prepared to spend more on a WC than ever before, in exchange for a cleaner, environmentally friendly toilet that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after each use?

Many of us wouldn’t blink at spending more on a top of the range shower head, or the latest sensory bathtub model, so why not a toilet?

The utility quite literally transforms the act of excretion into a technologically enhanced pleasure ritual and it has been designed exactly for this reaosn.

Floyd Case says that for TOTO “it’s all about making every day different. Every time you go to the bathroom you want to be reminded of how you feel afterwards, you shouldn’t become dulled to everyday experiences. Whatever you come into contact with should enhance your day, which is what the designers try to encourage.”

While the Washlet is TOTO’s signature product, the company also produce a number of luxury bathtubs, showers and washbasins with exactly the same philosophy in mind.

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