WATCH: What Makes Japan No. 1 In Toilet Technology : Parallels In NPR's Elise Tries series, correspondent Elise Hu tries out new experiences in East Asia. In this episode, Japanese toilets: so automated and comfortable, you might never want to leave the bathroom.
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WATCH: What Makes Japan No. 1 In Toilet Technology

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WATCH: What Makes Japan No. 1 In Toilet Technology

WATCH: What Makes Japan No. 1 In Toilet Technology

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/526005547/533176697" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

To truly see Japanese innovation, look no further than the bathroom. Japan's high-tech, toilet-bidet combos have these menu panels that are full of rinsing and drying features, and NPR's Elise Hu is going to explain one noisy innovation that the Japanese have come to expect.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: We're at Toto because Toto is the largest manufacturer of toilets in the world, and one of the awesomest (ph) things about Japan are the toilets here.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUSHING WATER)

HU: There it is.

What you're hearing there isn't actual rushing water but the manufactured sound of rushing water which comes standard with almost every Japanese toilet.

Can you hear that?

(SOUNDBITE OF RUSHING WATER)

HU: The noise-making feature is called Otohime or the Sound Princess. The Japanese are community-minded, so it used to be that Japanese women would flush the toilet several times before they used it to muffle any personal noises. But Toto spokeswoman Nariko Tamashita says a drought in the 1970s inspired an invention.

NARIKO TAMASHITA: (Through interpreter) Everyone realized that it was a waste of water to - just to cover up the sound. And that's how Toto came up with the idea of selling the Sound Princess.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUSHING WATER)

HU: I can turn the volume down.

(SOUNDBITE OF RUSHING WATER)

HU: Ah, so if you don't need it to be so loud - there you go.

It's just one feature of the endlessly innovative Japanese toilets. But this one solved both a societal problem, shame of potty noises, and an environmental problem, water waste, in one invention. Sounds good, right? Elise Hu, NPR News, Tokyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF TERUYUKI NOBOUCHIKA'S "CAFE DU PARC")

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