Our toilet has lots of advanced features, accessed using a little control panel alongside the seat.
Colloquially, this kind of toilet is often referred to as a ウォシュレット “Washlet”, but strictly speaking Washlet is a trade mark of Toto. Not “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” Toto, nor “I bless the rains down in Africa” Toto; the Toto that is the main manufacturer of toilets and bathroom furniture in Japan. (Originally Touyou Touki—Oriental Ceramics).
Because our Washlet is produced not by Toto but by Matsushita (National) it is not marketed as a Washlet but as a “Clean Showare”.
The main features of the Washlet/Clean Showare are a heated toilet seat and the ability to direct a powerful and highly-focused jet of warm water at your nether regions with uncanny accuracy.
Anyway, you can see the control panel in the photo above. From right to left we have:
- a 節電 setsuden button for saving electricity. Actually I’ve no idea what that does.
- 2 buttons for regulating the temperature of the warm water spray and the temperature of the seat;
- a pair of buttons for increasing and decreasing the water spray pressure;
- a button labelled “bidet” to direct the water jet in a more forward direction (Is it my imagination or does the woman in the diagram look a little surprised?);
- a button labelled “backside” for a more rearward direction of spray (this one also has a “rhythm” option);
- and a “STOP” button.
Another feature unique to Japanese toilets is the facility to use the water flowing into the cistern to wash your hands, thus saving water. Unfortunately, only cold water is available, so if you want to wash your hands with hot water you still have to go to the bathroom wash basin.
Of course, no Japanese appliance would be complete without a warning sign 注意 chuu-i, and the toilet is no exception.
The operation of the heated seat and spray are governed by two microswitches – one pressure switch in the seat, so that if nobody is sitting on the toilet seat it won’t activate, spraying water all over the room; the other in the lid, so that if someone is sitting on the toilet with the lid closed, it won’t spray onto the underside of the closed lid. You see, they’ve thought of everything. In Boolean terms, the permissive for operation is “A AND NOT B”.
Of course in Japan, nothing stands still, not even in the world of toilets, and new features are always being added. For example, at work the toilets (genuine washlet, in this case) include a “Powerful Deodoriser”. (Sorry, I don’t know why this photo came out so bad. Maybe I was self-conscious about taking photos in the toilets at work.)
During the summer months, there has been a sign on the wall prohibiting the use of the heated seat, in order to save electricity.
On a recent weekend away, the inn that we stayed in had toilets so advanced that they were fitted with infra-red motion detectors that detect your approach and automatically raise the lid for you. The seat was also raised and lowered by means of a button on the (very complex) control panel.
I notice that this one offers an intermediate position between “backside” and “bidet” called yawaraka. This is not a word I am familiar with, and I didn’t try it. It also has a hot-air dryer.
While all these features are great, the hotel guest on a late-night visit to the toilet may not particularly feel like wrestling with this level of complexity (which button to raise the seat? 3 different flush options?). He may start to feel nostalgic for the more traditional washiki Japanese-style toilet, which looks like this:
Note on the word of the day:
トイレ toire is probably just a Japanese abbreviation of the English word “toilet”. Of course, like English, Japanese has lots of words for toilet; 便所 benjo, お手洗い o-tearai (literally: hand washing) and various other old-fashioned or euphemistic words.