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Toto's primary sales channel is "If you build a house or office in Japan and don't specifically talk to your architect/contractor about your post-bowel movement preferences we will take the liberty of using the most current model Toto has available and then invoice you cost plus labor plus 50%."

Toto does not have that relationship with the person responsible for picking your toilet.

Why does Toto have that relationship with the guy who picked my toilet? They've got a sales rep in Ogaki. His most important job is making sure they know of every business start for a construction company and that every time it happens the company gets a wreath (that's considered auspicious and is socially mandatory to buy when someone close to you starts a shop) and the principals get invited out drinking. Toto is, naturally, buying. The sales guy will not be so gauche as to mention "Say, apropos of nothing, do you do cost-plus projects? We have a proposition for you which will put $100 extra in your pocket for every bathroom you build."

Minus the necessity of the wreath, I assume construction managers in the US are equally willing to accept free drinks and an extra $100/per bathroom. Does this not work in the US because it can't be a reasonable default in those types of situations?

It's not a reasonable default because every visitor to your house would make a comment requiring you to justify having "fringe" bathroom habits.

Edit: Not every, of course. And the number would vary by region of the US. Excuse the universal quantifier :)

I saw this somewhere else, but it stuck with me: "if you get poop on your arm, do you wipe it off with a dry piece of paper - or do you wash with soap and water?"

I don't understand why bidets are fringe :(

The difference being I anticipate the future interactions of my arm and my butt with the surrounding environment to be quite different.

I realize there are serious health implications, but I can't read this thread without getting the giggle fits.

This would be such an awesome first-world problems meme :)

I just realized my earlier comment may appear trollish. That really wasn't my intention. 

I got a good chuckle from this discussion because I travel to Japan frequently. But no matter how many times I've encountered Japanese toilets, they still cause much amusement, confusion, and even some anxiety. (I say anxiety because sometimes it's hard to tell if pressing a button would cause the toilet to sing you a song or do something unexpected.) 

After reading this article and seeing the very lively and rather in-depth discussion here on HN, I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm not the only one befuddled and fascinated by this bit of Japanese technology.

On the other hand, I've also spent time in parts of the world where there's no running water at all for flushing toilets. Hence the fringe nature of bidets in our society and toilet seats costing more than $1k = first world problems IMO. Not that it wouldn't make a great gift for the holidays.

If I got poop on my arm, I wouldn't use toilet water to wash it off.

This to me is the #1 reason I don't want bidets and would never use it. Pretty much the most repellent idea to me is the concept of the toilet spraying me back.

How's this for an idea... a sink next to the toilet where I can warm a piece of paper with water and use it. Nice, simple, and works well.

Or baby wipes. Those work really well too. Replicate this with an "adult version".

Toilet spray? No thanks. Ever

The water comes from your water piping, not the toilet bowl.

Yeah, and that is the same water you drink, too. It goes through the same kind of pipes, they just end in different places. You could do a A/B test and most probably you would not be able to find any difference between water from the toilet pipe and water from the kitchen pipe.

Yes the water is clean, but that's only for sure until it comes out from what is basically inside the toilet bowl. If that opening is dirty, the water will be dirty.

The spray head doesn't stick around in the middle of the bowl for you to poop on it. It stays tucked away inside (or below) the bidet machinery until you activate it, at which time it extends only as far as it needs to. When it's done spraying, it automatically retracts to its former position.

Do you believe the dirty water coming out of the opening will leave more shit on your bum than the crude white paper you use to rub it off?

The water comes out of a little nozzle on the end of a wand that extends only when used. While you do your number 1 or 2, the wand is retracted inside the toilet seat (not bowl, above the bowl). Plus, after spraying, the nozzle will auto-clean itself before retracting.

If you poop on your arm, do you rinse it off under a drinking fountain? That is pretty much what a bidet does...

Anyway, why does that quote compare washing with soap and water? do bidets do this?

> every visitor to your house would make a comment requiring you to justify having "fringe" bathroom habits.

Wouldn't this have been the case in Japan in the early 80s too, when Washlets first came to the market?

I don't have the source handy, but I remember there were at least two very attractive features that started the trend of "advanced" toilets in Japan:

1) A seat heater: Bathrooms used to be unheated so without this it would be very cold in the winter. Adding a heated seated was much cheaper than adding a room heater. 2) An artificial sound to overlay embarrassing farting sounds: Without this feature, it was common for Japanese women to constantly use the flush in order to create a louder sound. This was obviously a huge waste water.

Once the ground was laid, it was natural to extend the number of features.

While we're knee-deep into the toilet conversation, you make an interesting observation. I'm originally from France and have lived in California for over 11 years but, to this day, I'm still astonished at how little embarrassment there is in American toilets (my experience is limited to the mens rooms) as far as unpleasant noise goes. It is obviously a fact of life but, where I come from, denial is king in that department.

My theory is that it's because American public toilets are usually made of 2 thin, low separation walls and a door with sometimes wide gaps which makes it almost inevitable to share the entire experience with everybody in the room.

Still not used to it...

I think it's just cultural: American men are not expected to be discreet or embarrassed in "practical" all-male environments such as locker rooms and public toilets. A loud belch or other powerful, resounding emanation signals manliness... and it was funny when you were 7, it's still a bit funny now.

"off-screen sounds" as they're called in entertainment, meaning sounds that have no visual cue to explain their existence, ignite a fleet startle response from ear to brain. The science behind the funny and the awkwardness of farting or belching. When expressed loudly, might not even be that far from the roar of a large carnivore.

a bit funny? Liar. It's hilarious! Who cannot but smile at a cubicle wall rattler, whether your own or someone elses?

For working class white American men, that is not limited to public restrooms. They're doing it at home too and laughing about it to their wives/girlfriends/kids - who probably call them disgusting to which they laugh even more.

People with more class and manners tend toward the French way of doing it.

You mean people who are snobs tend toward the French way where as people who are fun and warm hearted have no problem laughing at farts.

I would much rather be with a person that thinks farts are funny then one who doesn't. To each their own.

Funny or not (I don't think I'm any different from the natives in that regard), that doesn't explain why they would find it perfectly reasonable to share the joy in public where "fun" is certainly not the aim.

I wasn't passing judgement on either group, simply stating the facts as I know them to be.

Those are hardly 'facts' as much as they are anecdata. From the working class families I grew up in and around, I could assert with just as much first hand data how baseless your assertions are.

This is an excellent example of circular reasoning, as I see it.

"More mannered people are more mannered because they do not do things I consider ill-mannered."

A fart is a fart. Go to southeast Asia, it's still just a fart that people laugh at. Go to Europe and fart and now leave a bad impressions due to culture? I see which is the optimal setup for practicality and sanity.

I don't think that "class" and "manners" are very healthy in this case. Farting is very natural and happens consistently. You shouldn't have to hide that or be embarrassed about it.

That said, I tend to look for bathrooms to relieve myself privately.

    2) An artificial sound to overlay embarrassing 
    farting sounds: Without this feature, it was 
    common for Japanese women to constantly use 
    the flush in order to create a louder sound. 
    This was obviously a huge waste water.
Was this an issue because Japanese walls are thinner? Or homes smaller? Farting isn't considered particularly appetizing here either but I don't remember a single time this has been an issue (or ever hearing someone farting from outside the bathroom).

The flushing is designed to cover up 'all' sounds. There's a lot of weird fetishes and taboos and hangups people have out here, so I wouldn't read too deeply into it. Diet is probably not a factor.

The otohime is a huge water saver, though.

A combination of a collectivist culture and crazy expensive real estate leads to more people living in smaller homes and in closer proximity to each others bowel movements.

The Japanese diet also probably plays a role......

There was a considerable increase in the number of dwellings in Japan with flush toilets from 45.9% in 1978 to 83.0% in 1998. This likely led to an increased acceptance of the new style of toilets because the North American & Western European style flush-toilets were not as prevalent in the home at the time and so an in-grained cultural use was not the determining factor for choosing new toilet styles.

* Stats from Statistics Bureau, Japan.

Not really. The Japanese have a hygiene tradition, so new cleaning devices are highly thought of.

I guess this doesn't extend to oral hygiene?

Japanese oral hygiene is fine. It's cosmetic dentistry, braces etc that they don't really get.

Uh, no it isn't. Every, and I mean EVERY train ride I take from Chiba to Tokyo is a mixture of fish-and-garlic-for-breakfast and cigarette breath.

If only what you said were true.

Cosmetic dentistry is an American obsession. the rest of the world does not get it.

They have notoriously bad breath and bad teeth. Travel guides for Japanese tourists even suggest they brush their teeth regularly and use mouthwash in America so as not to offend people.

Is this a joke? Japanese brush at least three times a day. Probably more than in most western countries. And they have tons of breath fresheners in convenience stores. You would not have such products if no-one was buying them.

This being said, I can certainly relate to the cigarette smell, but that's not only a breath issue, that kind of smell sticks to everything, from clothes to interiors.

Have you ever been to Japan? In my travels there I have not noticed any unusual halitosis, and I've spent plenty of time packed into the metro at rush hour.

[citation needed]

While discussions of what goes on in the bathroom may make most Americans uncomfortable, it certainly isn't so taboo as to point out a different toilet. Perhaps the Japanese culture is different, such that, while people may have wanted to ask why you have a fringe toilet, social norms kept them from doing so.

I'm not Japanese, nor have I spent any time in Japan, so that's purely conjecture, but, knowing what little I know about Japanese culture, that wouldn't strike me as beyond belief.

You're right, Japan has a long and very interesting obsession with poop, primarily due to their geography.

Japan is a series of volcanic islands with, historically, a very limited indigenous supply of large poop producing creatures like like cows, horses, and pigs. The result is that there was a great scarcity of fertile soil. To supplement their soil they instead relied on human feces. So valuable was it that back in the day you could sell your poop to professional manure collectors who walked around town with large pots.

The cultural legacy extends well beyond toilets. You may have seen recent articles about people creating meat from poop, and poop powered motorcycles. It's no coincide that those are Japanese inventions. Funny how a thing like geography affects things.

Speaking on cultural differences and American willingness to discuss bathroom culture...

I, personally, don't like the idea of a warm seat. All I'll be thinking about is "someone else just used this toilet".

Maybe one day I'll use one and it'll change my outlook completely, like the George Foreman grill nudged my outlook on the validity of infomercial products. But, until that happens? Nope, no thanks.

Warm seats seem like a pointless luxury if your bathroom is properly insulated and heated, but the vast majority of older Japanese housing is neither.

Well, it is still more economical to warm up ONLY the seat than insulating the whole room. Especially since you do not stay hours every day in the restroom.

Many cars nowadays have seat warmers, which can warm you up faster than turning on the heater. It's very pleasant in cold weather.

Anecdotally your conjecture is correct.

While that may be a tad arkward, it isn't as bad as it sounds. If I had one of these, I'd still leave toilet paper on the side for those who were uncomfortable with the concept of a Washlet.

Edit: After reading the other comments, it is apparent that this is probably a good idea for primary users too. Makes sure the job is done right.

The sales strategy is independent of the toilet model.

w1ntermute - That's a great question. We'll have to hope someone with better knowledge of Japanese habits and culture will respond to answer it.

Just the toilet seat is $750 (Disclosure: This is on my Christmas wishlist)!


Although it does come with a remote (with LCD display), water temperature adjustment, volume control (for your iDevice), warm air-dryer, and air deodorizer.

What's with the affiliate link (littdidd-20)?

I'm genuinely curious to know why people have a problem with affiliate links.

If it doesn't harm you, and the info is good, why begrudge someone their tiny percentage cut?

I'm not particularly bothered by this case (or more affiliate links), but when I see them in a blog post saying "This article / service is awesome, buy it", and there's an affiliate link involved, I do generally think "Yeah and how much are you making for saying that?"

But then I've done the same affiliate link stuff on occassion myself, especially when there's a perk link extra free space - it's easy to do, and as you say, not any harm as long as the intention isn't to mislead.

It's copied from his Xmas wishlist, Amazon probably put it there automatically.

The company mentioned in the article seem to have comparable ones but are cheaper.

Yes, the contractor will make many decisions for you - unless your architect made the decisions first.

Why do you need to go through Toto? Installing a simple comod with a hand hold bidet http://handspray.com.au/images/retro-hand-spray-bidet/retro-... (or attached depending on your preference) can be done by a run of the mill contractor.

It looks like it's perceived as a modern, costly setup in Japan(and the thing shown in the article is expensive) but the simple comod-bidet setup is inexpensive. It's quite common in India.

Quite common in Thailand too, and as anyone who's ever used one knows, they are far superior to toilet paper. I've been meaning to install my own sink sprayer next to my toilet for a while now. Guess I should get to it.

Nice insight on the sales approach. Is there any particular reason that this technique doesn't work outside of Japan? American construction companies might not care about a wreath, but surely drinking and promises of additional profits would be universally effective.

>Is there any particular reason that this technique doesn't work outside of Japan? American construction companies might not care about a wreath, but surely drinking and promises of additional profits would be universally effective.

It does work outside of Japan.

The relationship of "enterprise" software company to partner VAR to enterprise works much the same way, drinks and all.

Steak and strippers.

Yes it does work, it's why trade shows are in las vegas and other "fun" places. A dozen cupcake and bottle of scotch once saved me $5k in a deal.

I know that this practice is outlawed for doctors and Pharma companies, the most they can give doctors these days are some free pens and drug samples :P

People don’t pick the toilets in their houses? I find that hard to imagine.

People not picking the pipes or bricks that are used I can see, but the toilet? No way. Before I buy a toilet I want to at least sit on it and I cannot imagine anyone feeling any other way about that.

How many people build their own house, as opposed to buying one from a previous owner or a developer?

Also, remember that not everyone owns their own house. Many people rent apartments or houses from other people, or live with families.

Between all of those factors, I would say a very small percentage of toilets in this country were picked out by the person using them.

Hm, you are probably right. My perspective is probably skewed. My grandparents built their own houses (altogether three, actually), my parents built their own house – and they really picked everything down to the “Which toilets should there be?” detail level.

If you buy a house that is not new, and your toilet is working, replacing it will be definitely not on the top of your list. And since other renovations - which usually matter much more for people take priority. Add to that the fact that "we recently did a new kitchen" sounds much better in conversation that "we recently bought a toilet seat which costs only a little less than a used car" - and here you go.

The factor of the cost is important too. For $1700 I could redo a whole room - why would I spend this on a toilet when I already have a perfectly working one? Of course, if money is not an issue, it's different - but for most people money still is the issue.

Even in most custom built homes you only pick the fit and finish and not the actual product. This is mainly done for cost reasons since specific products means you need someone to take the time to review existing plans to make sure everything fits and is spec'ed out properly.

See, my perspective is completely skewed. I don’t even know what a custom built home is. I don’t have a house nor any plans to get one but my dad (a civil engineer, usually planning water supply systems) drew up all the plans for my parents’ house and my parents (including the extended family plus friends) really did nearly everything by themselves, and that includes picking out all the interior. Everything is custom about that house. In that context someone telling you which toilet to get is nonsense.

I hope the irony isn't lost on you that this means you did not pick the toilet in your house, just like you found it hard to imagine other people doing!

Ha, I guess you are right. Though my parents might well have taken me with them on one of their many trips to an untold number of stores and I might have actually been present when they picked a toilet. I don’t remember, I was three at the time.

What I wanted to say that I can’t understand not picking the toilet for a house when you build it (or if you decide to renovate a house), I obviously didn’t pick the toilet in my current apartment.

What i'm saying is the customer usually asks for a white toilet that looks like X. The builder says, "Manufacturer Y has something like that. Does this look good?" knowing that manufacturer Y works with his suppliers who will have the exact product at the exact time that they need it.

Sure you can go to a builder and say I want this, this, this, and this, but be ready to pay out the nose for someone to do all the work to make sure they show up correctly and at the appropriate time.

See, my parents are the kind of people who would micromanage that kind of stuff. I mean, I know they would, because they did when they recently renovated their bathroom. This time they paid people to do the actual work (everyone’s getting older), but they made sure to get the right kinds of tiles and drew a plan for the tilers on how to arrange the tiles. Which tiles to cut in which way, and where to, for example, put the patterned tiles.

In America or in Japan? I know for a fact if you are doing a new build or renovation in America your choice of involvement is entirely up to you. Some people pick out specific shower heads and toilets and tile (even on a $250,000 renovation or million dollar new build). Others let professionals pick and choose what they want.

There is an entire industry of show rooms for high end bathrooms and kitchens with salesmen to help you pick out the right bath tub or dishwasher.

Even those high end show rooms have a limited range of specific manufacturers. Like I said it's mostly fit and finish.

The situation for new builds / speculative construction which are then placed on the market, versus 'having a house built to your specifications', might be some of the difference. Or you (that is, not you or I, but "people") might select a "style" of bathroom or use a particular interior designer whom you trust to make appropriate decisions.

If you're not getting an incredibly detailed itemised bill, you might find it tough to spot ~1K extra in 'bathroom furniture and installations'

When I recently needed a new toilet I simply asked the plumber who would be installing it to swing by the shop and buy me one on the way over. I gave him a price range, told him to use his professional judgement and to bring me the receipt. Having to spend my Saturday schlepping all the way across town just to look at toilets is far too much a waste of my precious weekend.

People tend to have strong preferences about things they don't like in their current place. Like the kitchen layout, or the appliances, or the showerhead. People don't really have that much of a beef with a normal American Standard toilet, so they don't care.

Are these popular anywhere else besides Japan? That would be interesting to know.

Maybe it's a Japanese thing. It's like asking why we don't use arabic toilets...

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