Shipments of high-tech toilet seats exceed 100 million

Reuters file photo
‘Washlet” toilet units, equipped with heated seats and automated warm-water bidets, are displayed at a discount store in Tokyo, 1999.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Cumulative shipments in Japan of toilet seats equipped with a warm-water cleansing spray function exceeded 100 million units in June this year, according to statistics dating back to 1987.

Although a commonplace feature in homes and other locations today, the bidet-style toilet seats struggled for a long time to be accepted widely. Manufacturers carved out a market for the new toilet seats by utilizing bold advertising strategies and assiduous product development, rooted in the firm belief that their value would be appreciated once they were used.

With the penetration rate among general households in Japan topping 80%, manufacturers now focus on promoting wider adoption in facilities such as train stations, offices and public restrooms.

The high-tech toilet seats are in a new phase of evolution, including multiple unit management by advanced information technologies.

According to sources including the Japan Sanitary Equipment Industry Association, which comprises manufacturers of toilet equipment, imported toilet seats complete with a warm-water spray function were put on sale for medical institutions in 1964 for hemorrhoid treatment. In the late 1960s, the predecessors of Lixil Corp. and Toto Ltd. started manufacturing such toilet seats in Japan. In the late 1970s, they developed and released higher-performance models, but shipments by each company totaled only several hundred units per month.

A key turning point for the industry was an unconventional television commercial launched by Toto in 1982, in which female singer Jun Togawa declared, “Your backside, too, wants to be washed.”