They are found in more than two-thirds of Japanese households and visitors to the country have marvelled at their heated seats, posterior shower jets and odour-masking function. But for the company that has sold over 30 million high-tech toilets, commonly known as Washlets, global lavatory domination remains elusive, especially among shy US consumers.
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"It's because of the cultural taboo over talking about toilets," said Hiromichi Tabata, head of the international division at Washlet-maker TOTO, a company that also makes bath tubs, kitchen taps, basins and plumbing fixtures.
Pop diva Madonna gushed about Japanese culture during a 2005 visit and pointed to the Washlet as a key draw, saying "I've missed the heated toilet seats"-the kind of free marketing most companies dream about.
For a nation that claims globally recognised brand names such as Sony and Toyota, the Washlet's relative lack of overseas presence comes as a surprise to many foreign visitors, even if they're initially baffled by its dizzying array of functions and Japanese signage.
In technology and hygiene-obsessed Japan, where restaurants provide a steaming hot towel for customers' hands, they're found in public toilets, office lavatories and over 70 percent of Japanese households.
"We thought that Japanese people, who are clean freaks, would like the idea of the Washlet," said spokeswoman Atsuko Kuno.
But when it hit the market in the booming 1980s, the high-tech toilet wasn't an immediate success in conservative Japan either.
Fewer than 40 pct of residents and commuters in Tokyo take specific measures to prepare for a possible huge earthquake beneath the Japanese capital, despite high awareness on disaster prevention, a Metropolitan Police Department survey showed Friday. (Jiji Press )
The man under arrest for fatally stabbing one man and wounding three others during a 10-minute rampage in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, on Monday night, told police on Thursday that he wanted to hijack a plane at Haneda airport and fly it into Tokyo Skytree to take revenge on society. (Japan Today )
The 24-year-old suspect in the murder of a man on a street in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, on Monday is believed to have posted a profile online in which he identified himself as a "celeb NEET," meaning a celebrity without a job, according to local online news site J-Cast News. (Japan Times )
The proportion of single nonregular Japanese male workers in their 20s who have girlfriends stood at 18.7 pct in 2012, against 30.7 pct for regular employees, a government survey revealed Thursday. (Jiji Press )
Police in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, on Wednesday night arrested a 24-year-old unemployed man over four knife attacks within 10 minutes that left one man dead and three others injured on a street. (Japan Today )