Hygiene. In Japan great emphasis is placed on cleanliness and hygiene. It’s evident everywhere and is infused in the culture and psyche of the Japanese. In the public bathouses and the onsen, bathers lather up and scrub their skin interminably before joining their fellow bathers in the pools. On the streets, cold and allergy sufferers don disposable surgical masks in consideration of those around them. Restaurants provide diners with hot or chilled oshibori hand towels – even cheap food outlets have synthetic plastic wrapped moist towels on the tables – for wiping their hands, and chopsticks are still predominantly wooden, disposable and sheathed in paper. 

In the home, outdoor shoes are forbidden beyond the genkan, or entry hall; residents go barefoot, wear socks or slip into house slippers, while visitors are also provided with slippers to wear (Deliverymen are very adept at shedding shoes while lugging TVs and washing machines indoors). Moving outside to the balcony will also be accompanied by a change of footwear, just as a visit to the toilet means swapping house slippers for toilet slippers. 

As for toilets, the Japanese have designed the most sophisticated device on the planet: the Washlet.

elevating the bathroom from the merely functional to the restorative and meditative.


The Washlet, ウォシュレット, is a seating system for toilets that has evolved into a high-tech device that enhances the toilet experience and offers unparallelled levels of hygeine and cleanliness. Encountering one of the latest Washlet type toilets, the first thing you notice is that the toilet or the nearby wall has a control panel of interesting looking buttons. Then comes the surprise of seeing the lid magically open as you approach. depending on the model, you may smile on suddenly hearing soft music or the sounds of trickling water or other natural sounds. The next surprise is the senstion that the seat is warm; comfortably so. Instead of toilet paper, gentle jets of warm water heated close to body temperature do the cleaning, followed by equally warm and gentle air flows that dry your private parts, while fragrant deodoriser is delicately released. Once finished, the nozzles automatically flush themselves clean, the lid gently closes and the device silently waits for its next user.

More amazing than experiencing a Washlet for the first time is the fact that it isn’t universally used in other countries. They have become a bit of a status item among certain Hollywood types and they’ve gained some traction in various Asian countries, especially China, but in Japan Washlets are a feature of department stores and many other public buildings and are more common than not in Japanese homes. The Japanese have been enjoying a more hygenic, relaxing and sophisticated toilet experience since 1980, when the first, albeit more basic, Washlet was launched by Toto. 

Kyūshū based Toto first developed the Washlet G Series, possibly inspired by earlier American bidet toilets, and the company has  come to define the product. Though Toto also make a range of kitchen and bathroom wares, the company, established in 1917, began making toilet products in 1912, and their name – a contraction of their former name Tōyō Tōki – is today synonymous with the Washlet of which they’ve shipped some 30 million.

The company’s latest Neorest Series/LE toilet (pictured above) and beautiful accompanying washbasin and bathtub have been awarded red dots for outstanding industrial design by the red dot design museum in Germany. The series of products was was designed by Toto’s Creative Director Europe Masahiro Maruhashi. In addition to the functional elegance and sleek design, the pieces in this series are fabricated of a material developed by Toto, LUMINIST, that has a velvety surface texture and has translucent properties that, when combined with LED lighting, glow atmospherically.

Fragrance; music; warm water and air; glowing light: A trip to the toilet in Japan is taking on a whole other meaning!


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