Editors Blog

An International Trade-off in Comfort

December 23, 2010
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For Thanksgiving last month, I decided to forego the usual turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie for sushi and other Japanese delicacies. Instead of sitting at home with the family, I spent the holiday visiting friends who are living in Nagoya for a year. While there, I was intrigued by the contrasts between Japanese and American conveniences.

Of course, Japan has the reputation of being an incredibly tech-savvy country. And I certainly saw evidence of that in the super-fast, super-quiet bullet trains. But honestly, nowhere was I more impressed by their technology than in the bathroom.

Although traditional Japanese toilets are sort of a hole-in-the-floor experience, nowadays many homes and public restrooms have high-tech Toto toilets. And if you’ve never used a Toto toilet, it’s quite the experience.

In my friends’ rental home, their toilet had its own control panel mounted on the wall - thankfully, with English translations next to all the buttons. It was a Japanese model similar to this one: http://www.totousa.com/Washlet/WashletS400.aspx. The translations helped me navigate all of the toilet’s features (yes, there were multiple bidet functions, heated drying, different flushing options, and more).

But the best part of the Toto toilet, in my opinion, was the heated seat. I thought it was such a great idea for increased comfort. It seemed amazing to me that a small rental home and so many public restrooms were outfitted with these advanced toilets. But when it got chilly during the late November nights, I discovered that my friends’ home only had a small space heater. I’m sure it won’t surprise you to hear that central heating/air isn’t common in Japan. Why is it that only Americans believe this is a necessity of comfort?

So that was the international trade-off in comfort I discovered in Japan. You can always find a heated toilet seat and warm up your butt, but the rest of your body is out of luck.

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