I’m reading a book called The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. This global history of toilets begins with shocking data about sanitation worldwide. It continues with engineering and environmental stuff, and goes on to the political and charitable action currently being taken in an attempt to get some kind of decent sanitation to the people of the world.

In amongst all this serious stuff, though, is a chapter on the toilets of Japan.

We learn about Toto (I’m linking you to the philosophy page of TotoUSA, but you might prefer the fun of Neorest, where you can play with the fixtures with a mere mouseover). We learn about how the manufacturers of the toilets with special washing and drying devices figured out exactly where to place the devices. We learn what Japanese toilet scientists use to simulate human waste for experimental purposes. We learn about the Sound Princess. We learn about the marketing miracle that led to Japan’s totally modern toilets when the rest of the world is stuck in the 17th century, where plumbing is concerned.

Richard Seaman has a nice blog post about his experiences of Japanese toilets.

There was also, in the course of discussion about why Japanese toilets haven’t caught on in America, a lengthy discussion about toilet ads and toilet paper ads in the U.S. All the revolutionary changes (did you know there were government mandated changes to U.S. toilets that caused people to smuggle toilets out of Canada? Me neither) described took place in the 1990s. I totally missed them.

Toto achieved its marketing miracle in Japan with ads about happy bottoms. A beloved actress whom the author describes as a sort of Japanese Cyndi Lauper did commercials in which she read letters written to her by her bottom and said that “even bottoms should be happy.” Toto tried this in America with the ad above, and a “Clean is happy” slogan.

Apparently a product known as “Rollwipes” tried the same trick in the U.S., and raised all sorts of exciting reaction with their advertising. I don’t remember ever hearing about rollwipes, nor do I remember any controversial toilet ads.

I do find the toilet paper ads with the bears who get toilet paper stuck to their fur disgusting, I must admit. That whole bear family is just too focused on elimination.

Okay. That’s all  I know about Japanese toilets.