We're so primitive when it comes to toilets. Here's what we (and our tushes) are missing out on.
The Japanese have invented a magical toilet seat, which transforms the act of excretion into a technologically enhanced pleasure ritual.
You may have heard about these seats. They boast remote controls, heated seats and bidet functions. Some models play whooshing white noise in an effort to obscure other, zestier sounds. Toto, the leading brand, introduced its Washlet in 1982, and now more than 70 percent of Japanese homes feature a toilet seat with enhanced capabilities.
For some reason, we in the United States have not yet embraced the fancy toilet seat. Toto claims sales of Washlets in North America have reached a rate of "several thousand" each month. But not a single person I know owns one.
Given how often we use our toilets, and how much money we happily spend outfitting other corners of our houses with all manner of technologically advanced appliances, the lack of traction for Toto seems curious. I wondered: What do the Japanese know that we don't? To find out, I borrowed a top-of-the-line Washlet S350e from Toto and installed it in my bathroom.
Installation was no big deal. You remove your existing toilet seat and replace it with the new one. I did this myself, in about 20 minutes. I managed to shut off the water flow to my toilet tank, unscrew the flexible pipe that connects to the spigot in the wall, and screw in the adaptor valve that Toto provides. Now water would be routed not only to the tank but also to the toilet seat's bidet nozzle and its separate bowl-cleaning sprayer.
I slid the batteries into the remote control and voila: All at once, my bathroom became a realm of surprise and delight. Press a button and the toilet seat lifts itself, hands free. Press the button again and the seat smoothly descends into place, ready for action. As it senses my approach, the Washlet sprays the inside of the toilet bowl with a preparatory mist of electrolyzed water — ensuring that, as the manual somewhat primly explains, "dirt" will not stick.
We now must describe the Washlet's more intimate functions. Capabilities that one may experience only after one has dropped trou.
First, there is the heated seat. This is the sort of thing you don't realize you need in your life until you've tried it. It is truly a pleasure to press your hindflesh to an oval of cozy warmth, instead of receiving a mild, chilly shock. Using the Washlet's remote, you can adjust the temperature up or down until your haunches are happy.
When the time comes, the bidet function is also at your command. This is of course the killer app of the Washlet. The "money shot." It's also something that Americans seem to be collectively squeamish about.
What lies behind our general discomfort with moist butt-cleaning? Do we feel that dry toilet paper is properly penitent — a fair punishment for our nasty, corporeal doings? Is it that we're embarrassed to devote special attention to this part of our bodies? Is it that we're ashamed to let others see our bidets, as this would imply that we do indeed have anuses and that they are occasionally subpristine?
David Krakoff, a Toto USA executive, makes the case for liquid: "You would never consider your hands to be clean if you simply rubbed them on a dry paper towel with no water, and the shower you take every day is useless without water."
And yes, you could just buy Cottonelle wipes and be cleaner and happier than the vast majority of your fellow Americans. But I submit that a bidet is the moist wipe writ much awesomer. Hands free, with a steady stream. A pressure washer for your undercarriage. You may augment it with dry paper if you wish, in whichever sequence you desire.
Now, there is the matter of the price. The Washlet hovers in the mid-$900s on Amazon. But it is not a ridiculous purchase. I always hear people brag about the fortune they dropped on a fancy mattress, justifying this expense by noting how much time they spend in bed. The logic pertains when it comes to the bathroom. Think about it: How much would you pay for a whole new feeling of well-being in your nethers?