TOKYO >>With the 2020 Olympics in mind, leading Japanese toilet-maker Toto has recently introduced a new self-cleaning toilet for public restrooms, aiming to improve bathroom experiences for locals and foreign visitors to Japan.
“We’re seeing a surge in inbound tourism,” said Hirofumi Matsutake, a spokesperson at Fukuoka-based Toto.
The firm’s study has found that Japan’s high-tech toilets are popular among foreign visitors.
Matsutake said, however, that many visitors have complained that they struggled to understand the remote controls and which button should be pressed.
“Toilets in other countries aren’t commonly equipped with functions” such as the washlets and heated seats used in Japan’s high-tech toilets, he said.
“Together with other (toilet) producers, we’ve standardized the remote control icons,” Matsutake said.
The remote control that comes with Toto’s new toilet system — which started selling Feb. 1 — applies these standardized icons “so foreign visitors to Japan using the toilets for the first time will know how to use (their functions),” he said.
Public bathroom operators have long reported struggling to manage cleanliness, especially when dealing with a large number of booths, he said.
Matsutake explained that the flushing water used in the new unit has a high concentration of bowl-cleaning sodium hypochlorite. The toilet’s settings — which includes sanitation functions — can be activated by the remote control.
Matsutake said the firm hopes to eventually sell 2,000 bowls per month.
“We hope that (foreign) users who learn how comfortable (washlet toilets) can be will want to install them in their residences when they return home,” he said.
Toto also wants to improve the quality of toilets available to people with disabilities.
The launch of the new toilet comes amid efforts to renovate toilets in time for the 2020 games in Tokyo and to cater to the needs of a wider range of users.
Bathrooms in Tokyo Metro Co. subways will be fully converted to western-style toilets by the end of 2019.
The operator of Narita airport, Japan’s biggest international facility, is spending nearly $47 million to refurbish toilets at all three terminals by March 2020.