Posted by: David Stewart | December 3, 2008

Canned in Japan

OK friends, this is one of those borderline inappropriate posts. Fair warning. Turn back now.

Why are the potties so different in Japan?

Here I am not talking about the traditional Asian seatless variety. Regular western-style water closests seem universal.

But in Japan, they have innovated the humble commode to incorporate comfort features and a bent towards high technology that seems really unique.

This is something which seems quite popular in Japan. Most Western-style hotels have them. I wonder if people have them in their homes (will need to ask). In Akihabara, “Electric Town”, where you can find all the most wonderful technology toys (pun intended), you can also find toys of this special kind as well.

Japanese style bathroom

Yes, the can has controls. You can see to the left of the seat are a set of three buttons marked “bidet”, “spray”, and “stop”. (That last one is good to know).

The usage model, as they say in technology circles, is as follows: As you sit on the seat it has a warming element, so your buns are warmed, so to speak. Once you have done your business and gone “number two” for example, you hit the “spray” button and a warm stream of water jets into your nether regions until you hit “stop”. Paper can then be applied to dry off the bum.

Wanting a scientific appraisal of the features, I wanted to see how strong the flow is. There is a safety mechanism which is built in, preventing the mechanism from activating if there is no weight on the seat. This is of course easily defeated if you have a will:

Japanese commode in action

Pretty impressive strength, I would estimate about a three foot high stream, based on the soaking I got.

This all seems very nice, by the way. I wish I had one in my house. But why have they not caught on in the US, or Western Europe, Latin America, anyplace where the throne is used?



  1. This has been around for more than 5 years (maybe longer.. thats when i first visited Japan)

    Actually i had a funny story, one of my friends got up since he was surprised by the jet and got his coat completely wet šŸ™‚

    The closest is in Chicago airport which used to change seat covers automatically… but this stuff is cool!

  2. I should have mentioned that I first heard about these features from none other than Casey Powell, when I was at Sequent in late 1980s. Believe he was addressing a company meeting at the time.

    And so yes, I experienced them the first time in 1990 in my first visit to Japan as well.

    But Ashok, why are they not popular elsewhere? Japan exports so much cool stuff.

  3. Hey I met a guy at an eco party once who was selling them here in the US. I am sure that with enough searching, they could be found. Except not those ones that caught fire in Japan a few years ago….

  4. At a small Italian restaurant in Germany the toilet seat would sanitize between uses – it would pick the seat up slightly, and spin the seat while a brush system cleaned it. I had to fool it into working so that I could watch it clean a few times. šŸ™‚

  5. Yeah right, @Jason, where are the photos?

    @Deb, now that you mention it, I do remember the story of them catching fire. But according to the two guys I had lunch with today, they are very popular even in Japanese homes. No clue why they have not “caught fire” outside Japan!

  6. I always figured the reason bidets aren’t more popular is the hassle of drying your butt with toilet paper. I’ve never used one, but I imagine to be an unpleasant and risk-fraught experience. šŸ™‚

  7. Maybe it’s the marketing… need to “sell” it as the toilet with the remote control–all those buttons to push…. Add some kind of video screen to watch and it’s a done deal. Then nearly every man in US would be rushing to get one! Of course most of the time, guys aren’t sitting down in the bathroom so they wouldn’t think about this too much. Oh and Josh–that’s why you have the soft, blowing warm air—no need for TP…
    Ahh potty talk on the blogosphere…..

  8. @Deb is right, one guy told me that he can flush his toilet from the remote control in his car! But I was also told that women seem to love them more than men.

    @Josh, you are just going to have to try it some time before you form your opinion.

  9. This is a unique post, to say the least, Dave! ;o)

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