Toto is a Japanese company that, by United States standards, makes Cadillac versions of toilets. Bidets are a given, and they also have models with seat warmers, with lifts to help elderly people stand back up and with reinforcement to accommodate Sumo wrestlers. The company showcases its toilet engineering with its own museum in honor of Toto’s 100th anniversary. They held a temporary exhibition at Narita Airport in 2014.
A toilet showroom in an airport terminal may seem like a strange idea at first, but it may be a clever way of helping the company break into other markets. According to an article by Spoon & Tamago, one of the biggest barriers for the company are cultural attitudes about body functions. Its harder to sell someone a toilet loaded with bells and whistles if that person is trained to never acknowledge toilets in public. Placing such an exhibit at a point where foreigners enter Japan may be a good way to change hearts and minds when it comes to … that sort of thing.
“For Americans here in the US, the biggest issues are personal experience with these products and a major reluctance to discuss bathroom issues or change ingrained habits,” says Steve Scheer the President of a toilet startup trying to crack open this market. “You wouldn’t imagine how many people giggle nervously or say ‘gross’ when we try to educate them about the advantages of the bidet seat, yet these are the same people that are still using paper – a much inferior way to cleanse oneself.”
The airport exhibition is closed, but don’t fret because you can still book your trip to visit Toto’s main museum! Whereas the airport exhibit may reel tourists in with a sense of morbid curiosity, tourists will still travel to the permanent exhibition. The Washington Post found some Canadians who were envious of the Washlet, a model with a built-in bidet.
“The Washlet is so popular in Japan, but unfortunately we don’t see it in Canada,” said Mami Yoshida, who visited the museum during a trip home with her husband after a decade living in Montreal. “I think that [Western] people are missing out on such an innovative product, such a cool gadget. And I wanted to impress my husband, so we decided to come here.”
It’s not all showrooms. The museum is also fun and educational for the kids! Children can put on a poo-shaped hat and ride a slide through a giant toilet, simulating the trip excrement takes through the sanitary system.
Truly, Toto has made the world’s first Epcot for toilets.
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