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Japan Shows Off High-Tech Toilets at Rugby World Cup


Japanese toilets are seen on display at the Toto Japanese sanitary equipment showroom in Tokyo on September 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Lucien Libert)
Japan Shows Off High-Tech Toilets at Rugby World Cup
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Japan is known for creating unusual high-tech products across many different industries. One place to experience an example of such development is in some of the country’s public bathrooms.

Some people visiting Japan for the Rugby World Cup are seeing the latest high-tech toilets for the first time. Visitors using the modern “washlets” describe having a different, almost futuristic experience.

Developers say the high-tech toilets were built with several tools to provide the best experience possible. Some open themselves when people walk up. Others welcome users with a warm seat.

Some perform so many technology operations they can be hard for users to understand. Often, the toilet controls also do not contain English explanations.

Alex Weimer is a French rugby fan visiting Japan for the World Cup. Two hours after landing at the airport in Tokyo, he could not call his first high-tech toilet experience a great one.

“There were something like 15 buttons in Japanese and I didn’t know which one to press,” Weimer told Reuters news agency. He said there were “strange symbols” attached to a series of controls that sent water shooting “in every direction.”

Weimer added that the toilet machine “made strange noises” when he tried to find the right control to make the device flush.

A person presses a button on the control panel of a Japanese toilet, in Tokyo, Japan September 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Lucien Libert)
A person presses a button on the control panel of a Japanese toilet, in Tokyo, Japan September 22, 2019. (REUTERS/Lucien Libert)

Brent York, a supporter of New Zealand’s national rugby team, said he thinks the toilets have too much technology for their own good. “A bit too sophisticated for me,” he told Reuters. “I just like the simple one, push the button without all the other experiences.”

York’s friend, Bernard James, feels differently, however. He says that while the toilets can at first be “a bit intimidating,” he is now used to them after visiting Japan so many times. “Japan leads the way in toilets technology,” James said.

Japanese people generally take cleanliness and disease prevention very seriously. Some people wash their bodies before entering a bath and most remove shoes when entering a home.

The high-tech washlets can be found everywhere in Japan – in public toilets, hotels and inside homes. The market for the devices is huge, with millions of tech-friendly Japanese.

But people desiring the technology can pay a high price. The low-end machines begin at around $232, while the complex ones sell for up to $9,300.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

toilet n. a bowl that you sit on or stand near when you get rid of waste substances from your body

symbol n. a sign or object used to represent something

flush v. when a toilet or other device empties and fills with water again

sophisticated adj. advanced; able to work in a smart way

button n. a switch that is pressed to control a piece of equipment

intimidating adj. having a frightening or threatening effect

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