Whether it’s cameras, robots, or toilets, Japan seems to be one step ahead of the world’s latest hardware trends when it comes to solving problems most people wouldn’t think existed. For those of us who have yet to grace our fair fannies upon a Japanese porcelain throne, the full-sensory experience can be overwhelming, especially with your pants around your ankles. But fear not! As Axiom will have you purging your systems without skipping a beat by the end of this article.
Japan is a country that prides itself on cleanliness, a cultural aspect that is apparent through things like its immaculate public transportation and attention to detail in everything. This notion of making every experience as clean and streamlined as possible has evolved the act of using the toilet into a technological ballet of buttons, sensors, and jet-powered streams of antibacterial water. However advance Japan’s toilets have come to be, things did not start off quite so elegantly.
A Brief History
As children’s book writer and illustrator Taro Gomi [ link ] mentions in the title of one of his most famous books, “Minna Unchi” (“みんなうんち”) or “Everybody Poops”. The only difference is how we go about doing it. Dating as far as 14,000 BC, researchers have found evidence giving insight into the different manners in which Japanese people used to dispose of, and in some cases use, human fecal matter. Although it is far from a clean story, compared to the streets of medival England, Japan was far ahead of its time in keeping things tidy.
Japanese toilets were generally located outside in outhouse-style pits away from living quarters. In more primitive situations, toilets would be fashioned over small, running streams that aided in the washing away of waste materials and doubled as a natural bidet. Perhaps one of the most interesting tools of the trade, that existed before the widespread use of toilet paper, was called the chuugi (籌木) (pictured above). As nothing more than a delicately shaped stick, chuugi were used in the appropriate fashion to clear away waste and then disposed of afterwards.
The Modern Toilet
After World War II, like much of Japan’s culture, an influx of western ideals and technologies quickly reshaped the nation and its toilet culture. The traditional botton benjo (ぼっとん便所), or squat toilet, became quickly replaced with modern western-style toilets. Even in cases where a full system could not be installed, plastic retro-fit versions were placed above the traditional toilets. As the Japanese are not ones to be outdone by any of the latest trends, it was not long until heated seats and automatic evacuation systems came standard on household toilets.
Manufactured by the Japanese company Toto Ltd. [ link ], the TOTO Washlet series introduced a complete and lid replacement upgrade commonly found in both Japanese private and public facilities. This toilet set the stage for multiple versions that landed the seat in the Guinness Book of World Records for its plethora of features. Within the various options available include a heated seat, warm-water self-cleaning bidet, automatic deodorizer, and noise-canceling systems.
Next time you find yourself enjoying the modern comforts of being in Japan in the 21st century, be careful on which buttons you push. At this rate they will be replacing water jets with more efficient laser-guided systems.