High-tech toilets in Japan aim to be even more user-friendly for foreign visitors

Japan's Narita Airport will have renovated restrooms for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Japan's Narita Airport will have renovated restrooms for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.PHOTO: JAPAN NEWS-YOMIURI
Washlets in Japan are typically equipped with features ranging from seat warming and bidet functions - with variable pressure - to air-drying and smell-removing mechanisms.
Washlets in Japan are typically equipped with features ranging from seat warming and bidet functions - with variable pressure - to air-drying and smell-removing mechanisms. PHOTO: ST FILE

TOKYO - Foreign visitors to Japan are often awed by the country's meticulous attention on its toilet culture, and a leading homegrown toilet-maker is taking that even further.

Toto has come up with standardised icons on its high-tech toilet systems to make it easier for foreign visitors who do not read Japanese, The Japan Times reported.

From its own study, Toto has found that many foreign visitors like Japan's toilets - or washlets as they are called in the country - but the accompanying cutting edge technology can be bewildering.

Washlets in Japan are typically equipped with features ranging from seat warming and bidet functions - with variable pressure - to air-drying and smell-removing mechanisms.

Foreign visitors have complained that they struggle to understand a washlet's various functions and which buttons to press, Toto spokesman Hirofumi Matsutake told The Japan Times.

"Together with other (toilet) producers, we have standardised the remote control icons," Mr Matsutake said, adding that the new toilet systems will start selling from Feb 1.

Japan's toilet culture has come under the government's scrutiny as the country prepares to welcome tens of millions of foreign visitors in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

A campaign was launched recently to convert unpopular Asian-style squat toilets in public places into sit-on "western" models.

About 40 per cent of toilets at 4,000 locations in popular tourist spots are "squatters", according to the Japan Tourism Agency, as reported by Agence France-Presse.

Narita Airport, Japan's biggest international gateway, is spending 5 billion yen (S$59 million) to refurbish its toilets at all three terminals by March 2020, The Japan Times reported.

In view of the anticipated large number of visitors, Toto has also introduced self-cleaning toilets for public washrooms, Mr Matsutake said.

The new toilet systems are equipped with technology that allows operators of public washrooms to maintain cleanliness more easily, he said. For example, the flushing water used in the new systems has a high concentration of cleaning chemical.

"We hope that (foreign) users who learn how comfortable (washlets) can be will want to install them in their residences when they return home," said Mr Matsutake.