Ben Hills

It’s now official. The Japanese really are different. Their poo doesn’t stink. At least it won’t from next April, when Hiroshi Kobayashi, a design engineer, unveils Japan’s latest contribution to 21st century technology. 

From the country that brought you Super Nintendo, tofu ice-cream and the cellular car-fax, stand by for the latest revolution – an odour-devouring superloo that even wipes your bottom. Koyabashi and a team of 17 engineers, designers and electronic specialists have been beavering away for years in the laboratories of Toto, Japan’s largest loo-maker. They have thought of every creature comfort you desired, and patented it – no fewer than 172 patents have been applied for.

The “new age toilet” looks more like a discreet piece of pastel-hued ceramic sculpture. There is no chain, no lever, no cistern. Instead, at the touch of a button, a mere eight litres of water hisses almost silently through a series of micro-processor-controlled valves to flush the bowl.

But extensive consumer testing showed that women rather like the rush of a good flush to drown out any other incidental sound effects, explained Koyabashi. So to complement your Neorest you can now buy a wall-mounted unit(named an Otohime , after a mythological Japanese Mother Neptune) which automatically broadcasts the tape-recorded sound of a good old-fashioned flush when anyone approaches the throne.

It goes almost without saying that it has an electrically-warmed seat -that’s hardly anything new in Japan. However, the Neorest also comes with an optional heating element that can keep the whole room warm – a feature deemed desirable because elderly Japanese have been dying of strokes while visiting their unheated dunnies during the icy winter nights.

A fully-integrated bidet – with the nozzle adjustable from a remote-control keypad – is also regarded as essential to the modern ablution, as is a stream of warm air to gently dry the bottom afterwards. And then there is the matter of the smell. Japanese, it seems, are no longer satisfied with the sickly scent of those little bars of crystals dangling under the dunny seat, so science has been working towards the ultimate solution.

Inax, a sister company of Toto, uses “sepia light” deodorisation, a secret process involving a special ceramic finish said to absorb ammonia. Matsushita (an upstart rival which built its reputation on an electronic sensor which automatically springs the lid open when you approach) has unveiled a”honeycomb catalytic converter”, named “The Bashful”.

But Toto is confident that cunning combination of extractor fans and electrically-generated ozone gas will leave the bathroom smelling as sweet as cherry blossom after the most seismic event.

The company – which has 15 subsidiaries from France to the US and Indonesia- is still considering whether to launch the Neorest on the international market. The price may be a problem. At $A5,200 not even the designer can afford one.

And for those having difficulty programming VCRs, don’t even think about installing a Neorest. The whole thing is computer-controlled from a complicated keypad.

Failing to record the late-night movie is one thing. Being unable to go to the loo because you’ve forgotten your PIN number is quite another.

Publishing Info

Pub date: Saturday 14 May 1994
Edition: Late
Section: News and Features
Page: 13
Word count: 628