Toto hopes to clean up with new self-cleaning toilets

by Magdalena Osumi

Staff Writer

With the upcoming 2020 Olympics in mind leading Japanese toilet-maker Toto Ltd. has recently introduced a new type of 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 many non-Japanese people.

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,” added Matsutake.

The remote control that comes with Toto’s new toilet system — which starts 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.

Also, “the new (toilet) is equipped with technology that allows one to maintain cleanliness more easily,” for operators running restrooms for the general public, Matsutake noted.

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, which is released through the electrical dispersion of chloride ions. The toilet’s settings — which includes sanitization functions — can also be easily changed with the accompanying remote control.

Matsutake said the firm hopes to sell 2,000 bowls per month from the third business year.

In addition, Toto believes the new model will help popularize the firm’s washlet toilets globally.

“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.

The firm wants to increase Asian region sales of washlet toilets from the current value of ¥19.5 billion to ¥38 billion in fiscal 2022, and from ¥6.4 billion to ¥20 billion in fiscal 2022 in the American and European markets.

Toto also wants to improve the quality of toilets available to people with disabilities or health conditions requiring the use of so-called multifunction toilets. They would also like to introduce equipment for ostomates that can be installed in standard toilet booths as well as in public toilets.

The launch of Toto’s new product 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.

For instance, units for subway operator Tokyo Metro Co. will go fully Western by the end of fiscal 2019. And the operator of Narita airport, Japan’s biggest international gateway, is spending ¥5 billion to refurbish toilets at all three terminals by March 2020.