Global Comparison of Bathroom Culture

By April 22, 2018 No Comments

If you have traveled across Japan, you have undoubtedly made use of the smart toilets with integrated bidet systems found in over 80% of households in Japan – the futuristic Japanese style intelligent toilets.

For those who have never encountered this modern marvel of bathroom hygiene and eco-friendliness, we’re talking about toilets that warm your bottom, wash you with water, dry you off, and even sometimes play your favorite soundtrack! The first time you feel the water cleansing bidet system at work, you will likely be slightly startled, but by the second time of use, you are all but guaranteed to be a strong advocate and wonder why these toilets are not in every bathroom in America.

So, why are we so far behind the Japanese in bathroom culture? No one can provide a reliable explanation, but there are few hypotheses out there. The bidet was a French invention in the late 17th century, and the most logical argument seems to point to the conflict between the French and the British in the late 1700s. Cultural aspects from the British had carried over to America with some of its earliest settlers, adopting several elements of the British way of life, including bathroom use.

Despite its invention nearly 200 years earlier, the bidet started to gain traction in Europe when plumbing systems improved in the early 1900s, and it began to be common in the bathrooms of French palaces. Today, the standalone bidet is widespread across most European countries. For example, you’d be hard-pressed to find an Italian bathroom that does not have a bidet system, with more than 98% of households in Italy having them! The bidet is also very common in countries like France, Germany, Portugal, and Spain, and Eastern European countries like Croatia, Greece, and Slovenia. It wasn’t until the early 80’s that we saw the Japanese introduce the electronic bidet, which was an attachment that connected to existing toilet arrangements and can be used for bathrooms in tight quarters (lacking the space for a separate bidet system).

So why are bidet systems in less than 5% of American households today? We’ve concluded that there is no good reason at all. If you happened to get poop on your hand, would you clean it with just toilet paper or water? I think we all know the answer, so why are our bottoms any different? The eco-friendliness and energy saving benefits are another matter altogether – it is estimated by Scientific American, that we could save 15 million trees annually if we all used bidets, so it’s time to save a tree, and use a bidet!

The good news is that sales of Japanese style smart toilets are booming in North America, quickly becoming a top growth market for incumbent smart toilet manufacturers like Toto. Here at Terrific Toilets, we are here to help you select the perfect Japanese style toilet or washlet for your home.


Sara Ito

Sara Ito

Sara is the Editor at Terrific Toilets. When she isn't reviewing the best toilets and washlets, she enjoys spending time with her 2 kids, husband and Wasabi, her 2-year old Corgi.