TOKYO • After transforming toilets with seat-warmers, air fresheners and strategically placed water sprays with its premium Washlet line-up, Japan's Toto now wants to revolutionise bathing.
Its cradle-shaped Flotation Tub aims to induce a trance-like state with an adjustable pillow and water massage functions to help with relaxation. The high-tech tub is inspired by flotation therapy that aims for low-frequency brain waves and was revealed at an industry fair in Frankfurt.
The Flotation Tub, which has not yet been priced, is expected to go on sale before next April.
It will be aimed primarily at high-income consumers in Europe, the United States, the Middle East and China, a first for the Japanese company that is marking its 100th anniversary this year.
"Until now, our thinking has been to come up with ways to sell to the overseas markets products that were developed for Japan. But now, we're trying to develop products aimed at overseas markets," Toto president Madoka Kitamura said in an interview in Tokyo last Tuesday.
Toto has been selling bath tubs, mainly for the Japanese market, since 1958. But the Flotation Tub is not designed for the average Japanese bather, who would normally sit in their rectangular bathtub. It is rounded and measures over 2m in length, allowing the bather to stretch out.
Toto, founded in 1917 in the southern city of Kita Kyushu, set out to introduce Western-style sitting toilets to Japan at a time when squatter-types were common. The latest data, from 2012, show it controls 54 per cent of the market for warm- seat toilets in Japan, with younger rival Lixil Group holding 24 per cent, according to industry researcher Japan Journal of Remodeling.
The Washlet series, introduced in 1980, is now gaining traction in Asia, especially among the Chinese who have chosen it as among the most popular items to bring back from a trip to Japan.