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Japanese smart toilets


32 TOTO A TOTO_Neorest AC Actilight_clos

(Picture: TOTO Europe GmbH)

The TOTO Neorest AC is at the top end of the range known as Washlet™ ‘shower toilets’. Advanced features include a warm air dryer, adjustable heated seat, deodoriser, sensor-activated seat-opening mechanism and tornado flush, UV cleaning technology (visible as blue light beneath the seat in this picture) and a pre-use spray of electrolysed antibacterial water to repel waste from the pan’s surface.

32 TOTO B Remote_control_Neorest_AC_EW.j

(Picture: TOTO Europe GmbH)

The control panel for the TOTO Neorest AC & EW Washlet™  showcases both the range of functions and the design ethos. Everything is adjustable and customisable – two users can even save settings for future use.


This futuristic product is a far cry from the typical Japanese outdoor privy, a wooden squat toilet, little more than a century ago. In 1917, Kazuchika Okura founded the company Tōyō Tōki (Oriental Ceramics) to develop sanitaryware for Japan; the company name was abbreviated to TOTO half a century later. The first Washlet™ model was launched in 1980; four decades later, some 50 million have been sold worldwide.


In Japan, TOTO also sells a product designed to reduce embarrassment: Otohime (‘Sound Princess’) is a device that plays the sound of a flush to mask bodily noises but without wasting water.

32 TOTO C 04_02toto_wc_rp_compact.jpg

(Picture: TOTO Europe GmbH)

Reducing water waste has been a goal of the company for over half a century. TOTO was probably the first manufacturer to launch a dual-flush system in 1960. Though it made little impact at the time, the principle was developed in other countries and is now common, with flush volumes typically 3–4 litres and 6 litres; the modern TOTO compact toilet shown here has two buttons for different flush volumes. That’s the maximum allowable flush volume in newly installed toilets in the UK, reduced from 7.5 litres in 2001.


It’s an important innovation. According to NGO Waterwise, the average person uses 143 litres of water each day in England and Wales, 165 litres in Scotland and 145 litres in Northern Ireland – and about 30% of that is used to flush the toilet. Along with low-volume cisterns, dual-flush mechanisms can help reduce usage, though some designs incorporate valves that can be prone to stick and leak.

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