Posts Tagged ‘Washlets’

Local governments finally getting around to public toilets

Monday, November 24th, 2014

Get down: Public rest room in a park in northern Chiba Prefecture

Get down: Public rest room in a park in northern Chiba Prefecture

Japan is a country of tradeoffs. Though there is an intentional paucity of public waste receptacles, there are plenty of free public restrooms, something that foreign tourists should note with appreciation. What they may not appreciate is the fact that most of the public facilities still feature squat-type toilets, which is certainly an irony since one of Japan’s most famous gifts to the world is the all-service commode, or “washlet,” which does practically everything but pull your drawers up.

We searched high and low for some kind of survey that revealed the portion of public toilets that are squat-type and couldn’t find any, so our claim that most public toilets, whether they be in parks, train stations or just along a street, feature squat type facilities is mainly due to observation.

But it’s obviously a situation that people are aware of. Chiba Prefecture recently announced that it set aside a supplemental budget in order to subsidize local governments and private entities who need to replace older Japanese style toilets under their management with Western style equipment before 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Olympics and it’s assumed lots of foreign tourists will come to the metropolitan area.

In a survey conducted in 2009, the prefectural tourism division asked visitors what they found “unsatisfactory” about their travels, and 25 percent mentioned “an insufficient number of toilets.” Another problem was that the toilets they did use were not clean enough.

Consequently, the prefecture decided to increase its subsidy to relevant bodies from half the cost of toilet renovation to two-thirds the cost. This money will mainly go toward building new facilities or renovating existing ones that can be used by tourists.

Apparently, these bodies have taken the prefectural government up on their offer and spent about ¥200 million in public funds this fiscal year, which is ¥60 million more than they spent last year. However, this money covered only 22 facilities, and since more organizations are asking for help, the prefecture passed a ¥50 million supplementary budget for toilets in October.

For reference, 86 public restroom facilities located at recreational beaches, public parks and sporting grounds were renovated with the help of public funds over the last 5 years. In most cases the money went to replacing older, squat type toilets with Western or so-called multi-use toilets for the elderly and the disabled.

An example pointed out in an article in the Yomiuri Shimbun was a public restroom in the fishing port of Tateyama. The facility was renovated in 2013 and the port received ¥800,000 from the prefecture toward the work, which involved installing Western toilets. However, the local official in charge of the project said they tried to retain the special local character of the restroom. We’re not sure what that means, but apparently it had something to do with the designs on the walls.

Build a multifunction restroom and they will come

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Room to move

Room to move

The big question for retailers and restaurants in Japan is how to attract seniors, regardless of what it is you sell or serve. One nonprofit Tokyo organization called Check is advising businesses to install so-called multifunction restrooms on their premises and then advertise the fact. Multifunction restrooms are larger than standard public restrooms and can accommodate wheelchairs, and the NPO’s research has found that older people are more likely to patronize a business that has one.

According to a study reported in Tokyo Shimbun, the average family with at least one senior spends four hours and ¥10,000 when they go out shopping, but 20 percent also say they will likely stay out longer and spend more money if they know beforehand the location of multifunction restrooms. The study group extrapolated on its findings and speculated that in terms of time the family would stay out 30 to 120 minutes longer, and spend ¥606 more.

Check, which was founded in 2008, has made a list of some 50,000 multi-function rest rooms throughout Japan, which it provides on its website. The NPO thinks there are about 100,000, and it is providing this information to local governments so that they can use it to promote their areas to local seniors and older tourists.

However, it should be noted that toilets in general are becoming something of a sales promotional tool. The Tokyo Metro subway system actually has TV commercials aimed at women showing how modern and clean their public rest rooms are. Lawson was the first convenience store to declare that its restrooms could be used by the public without the obligation of buying something, since people were so grateful for the service they usually bought something anyway. Most convenience stores have followed suit. And many restaurants explain their rest room facilities on their home pages and Tabelog sites, since many women won’t patronize restaurants that don’t provide separate facilities for men and women.

Japan’s toilet business flush with success

Friday, October 1st, 2010

Whoo!: Washlet with wall control

Whoo!: Washlet with wall control

The flush toilet is one of those Western imports that Japanese industry has adapted to its own special needs and then improved. Though you’ll still find a lot of traditional Japanese toilets at older public facilities and in the countryside, the Washlet toilet, with that surprising little spray nozzle, has become so ubiquitous as to be a standard fixture in Japanese life.

Washlet is a registered brand name for Toto, which dominates the toilet bowl business in Japan, and though most histories of the Washlet start in the 1980s, spray function toilets (onsui senjo benza) have been around in one form or another since the 1960s, and number 2 Inax’s Shower Toilet seems to be actually older than the Washlet. With traditional Japanese toilets there is no contact between the person and the porcelain, and when Western toilet bowls first made their appearance here, Japanese were perplexed by the seat for various reasons. Some were concerned about hygiene, while others simply found them too cold. The first improvement the Japanese made was to heat the seat.

Continue reading about Washlets in Asia →

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