Daibutsu, Kamakura

Daibutsu, Kamakura
Daibutsu in Kamakura, June 2010. There were thousands of school kids visiting that day. It was still great fun.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Energy Stingy Japan - Except for One Very Popular Place

Among developed nations, Japan is very energy efficient. The average Japanese person consumes about half the energy consumed by the average American and Japan has the slowest growth of greenhouse gas emissions throughout the industrialized world.

However, there is one place where energy usage is surging. That place is one of the most popular places in every Japanese home. The bathroom. Specifically it is the Japanese toilets.

Japanese toilets have progressed from basic human waste recepticles before 1980 to today where they have features such as heated seats, heated water to wash your bottom and high end toilets that sense when someone enters or leaves the bathroom, raising and lowering their lids accordingly.

One of the features, the heated seat, is popular due to Japanese homes being pretty cold in the winter. I know first hand the joy of sitting on a heated toilet seat in a frigid Japanese home.

These toilets are not cheap. The luxury models can go for more then $4,000. The Japanese government is struggling to meet obligations under the Kyoto global warming treaty and they have studied the issue of energy consumption in the Japanese household, specifically the toilets.

However, the government has found it difficult to get the average Japanese citizen to give up there comfy toilets. So the government has instead worked with toilet manufacturers to help reduce energy consumption.

So, like many things in Japan, technological innovation may be the answer. Toto, Japan's largest toilet producer, and other manufacturers have invented the intelligent toilet. A newly installed intelligent toilet after a few days in a household memorizes when and how family members do their business. Then, with history as its guide, the toilet intermittently heats up its seat and warms its water.

When no one is likely to be in need, the toilet is cool.

Here is a typical Japanese toilet with a control panel mounted on its right side.

(Source information: Washington Post)


  1. When I lived near Sendai, but up in the mountains, I was so happy to have my heated toilet seat. I always tried to remember to unplug it before I left for work, though.

  2. It's funny to hear someone say they "unplugged" their toilet.

  3. It's true though. I am in Sendai, and I unplug it except for the winter. (My wife won't let me.) It does suck up a lot of juice.

  4. That is fantastic! One thing that also gets me, is all the people that leave the lid up on the heated toilet seat. It wastes so much energy with all the heat disappearing.

    Now, if we can just make the toilet flushing noise mandatory to stop all these women flushing the toilet twice, I'd be happy. Coming from water-poor Australia, I cringe every time I hear a woman flush the toilet twice.

  5. thomas,
    I understand your wife. It is damn cold their in the winter.

    Melanie, oh yes, the old "flush the toilet to cover the unpleseant sound" practice.That's funny when you think about it.

  6. I would never, ever give up my washlet! It's the absolute number 1 thing I like about Japan. I don't care about its energy waste. I'm vegetarian, so that more than makes up for it.

    However, I'm very concerned about moving back to the U.S. next year. How can I get a washlet installed there?

  7. @jason
    Hmmm, the washlet. When I first went to Japan several years ago, I wondered what that was for. Since there were no towels in there to dry hands and my in-laws apparantly did not use it, it did not cross my mind that it was for washing hands.

    I later learned that the washlet on top of the toilet was for washing hands.

    I am sure you could find a good plumber who could create something for you in America. Such a good idea, why waste all that good toilet water when you flush when you could wash your hands with it also.

  8. I installed a plug-in switch which makes it easy to turn off the seat when not in use. It warms up quickly when turned on again.

    Jason - I had one in the US. Just use Google and you'll find lots of sources for them.

    Tornadoes28 - I think "washlet" is the term for the seat with a built in bidet like spray.

    The weather in my part of Japan is no colder than LA, but unlike LA (where I grew up) homes here do not have central heat so bathrooms are always cold in the Winter.

  9. Thank you Panda. I was thinking they were the little sink on top of the toilet.

    Yes, I have been in a bathroom in Central Japan in winter and I could see my breath.

  10. Yep, I've used those electronic toilets. It seemed to me that they waste water, but most of the functions didn't seem like they'd use much electricity compared to other household appliances. I didn't actually try the heated seat though.

    The electronic toilets were less of a culture shock to me than the squat toilets.

  11. @Mr. McCain
    Plus, like I mentioned, those heated seats are a Godsend in the winter. One of my favorite places to get warm.