Bathroom revolution


High-tech toilets and baths in Japan are brilliant.

I endured a cold toilet seat in winter in London for years and I had had enough. I recently bought a toilet seat cover in Japan. I thought it may not be on sale anymore – but it was. Nowadays a toilet bidet, which also has a warm seat feature, electronic cover etc., is standard in Japan. The idea of a toilet bidet (“Washlet” is a brand of the Japanese leader in this sector, TOTO) originally came from the US. In Japan, they became available in 1980 and the household penetration rate was 74% in 2012-13 according to the government.

In the UK, a bath, shower and toilet are usually in a single room and called a “bathroom”. Therefore, when I take a shower, everything in the room, including the toilet, becomes wet because of the steam. To avoid being electrocuted, usually there is no power point in the bathroom and we turn on the light and fan by pulling a cord. I have heard that selling Japanese high-tech toilets in London is difficult, not only because of the lack of power points, but also because the water tends to be hard and pipes become clogged.

However, I became curious as to whether these obstacles had been overcome by a Swiss company, founded in 1874, called Geberit ( when I saw their products promoted on prime-time TV commercials and newspaper advertisements in the UK four years ago. Geberit seems to provide extensive training for architects and plumbers, spreading its product information. Geberit toilets are seen in airports in Europe. They are not high-tech toilets, but the company will be in a strong position when it is time to upgrade such facilities.

My impression is that Japanese built-in bathroom dryers could also sell in the UK. It can be cold and wet in the UK and drying washing is always a problem, and also tumble dryers are not always an option. If people can hang washing in the bathroom and dry it quickly, this will save a lot of space.

TOTO opened a London showroom in 2010. Airing sensational TV commercials in the UK such as “your bottom wants to be washed too” at the beginning of its market penetration in Japan, as well as appealing to the market for ecological features at which Japanese companies excel, could enhance its breakthrough in the UK bathroom market.

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