The Puru and his Number Two (Rebecca Leibowitz) recently took a friend (also named Rebecca), and took a trip to Curry-Ya. It’s a small Japanese restaurant on 10th Street in Manhattan that specializes in small, flavorful curry stew pots served with a molded mound of rice. The food was exquisite and the sake half-off, but what brought us there was the opportunity to try a Toto Washlet.
Toto describes the Washlet, also known as The Chloe or The Jasmine, as, “a very luxurious toilet seat.” They’re not kidding. On the newest models, plastic, anti-microbial toilet seats and lids go up and down automatically, or float their way back down with a “soft close,” so you’ll never hear a banging noise. The sound of birds chirping or water bubbling may begin to play. When you sit down the seat’s already warm, but it doesn’t run full-time because you can program it on auto and it will learn and follow your schedule. These features are also present in the Toto Warmlet, but clean-up time is when the Washlet really shines.
Press the button marked “Rear Cleansing,” and a wand, after being sterilized by a blast of hot water, will emerge from the bottom of the seat, and a small stream will shoot out to, well, cleanse your rear. Try “Rear Cleansing Soft” for a more soothing experience, or press “Front Cleansing” and the wand will poke out further, providing a rinsing obviously designed for women but surely useful to the opposite sex when looking for a tickle. Not sold yet? Sample the pulsating and oscillating options, or change the angle of the wand so it really hits the spot. Once your bath has bottomed out and the automatic deodorizer done its job, set the temperature on the dryer and take a few deep breaths. Life is but a dream.
These toilets, ubiquitous in Toto’s home country of Japan, have been slowly trickling into the US, and may best be remembered for their short-lived 2007 ad campaign, “Clean is Happy.” You remember, the one with the smiling butts and the public demonstrations. But (ahem) Americans, satisfied with the status quo and put off by the idea, have been slow to try them. Those who do are quickly converted, and most can’t wait to tell their friends.
YouTube videos with names like, “The Truth About Bidets is Self Evident” and “Hodding Carter & the Toto Washlet—A Love Story” extol the virtues of its design. One online reviewer, Kwaichi, comments while showing the cleansing stream shoot out: “Wonderful. Beautiful. Lovely pressure.” He pans the camera to show the wooden door opposite the toilet, dripping from top to bottom. A man with a wry grin faces the camera and raves, “I got something this week that’s gonna change my life.” With a price tag of $484 to over $1,500, just for the seat itself, it better change your life and make you coffee in the morning. At least you’ll be saving on toilet paper, if perhaps not on your water consumption.
Let's say you can't find the cash or a penguin to install it (see commercial link above). Those wishing to pamper their derrieres without mortgaging the children or raiding zoos can make a habit of dining at one of many fine restaurants, like Curry-Ya, that offer a Washlet in their water closet. The Toto website lists options for those residing in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta and San Diego, and having seen one at a Korean restaurant in New Jersey, I’m sure there are others out there. (Incidentally, Yelp just released a guide for interesting New York bathrooms, including the Washlet.) You can also find them for sale at housing goods stores, or get an idea by taking a virtual tour of the Neorest, the Washlet’s uber-bourgeoisie compact toilet cousin.
But back to 10th Street with two friends both named Rebecca. After both of them had come and gone, and then come back refreshed and excited, I excused myself to use the toilet before the food came out. I only had to pee, but of course I sat down. Ohhh, the seat, so pleasantly warm—great now, but no doubt amazing in winter. And the jets, pulsations, the warm, drying air? My only regret is that I couldn’t stay longer.